My Scarf, the Security Risk, Part 2

So, I emailed TSA asking them why my scarf is a security risk.

Here is what I wrote:
Can you please tell me why I had to take my scarf off when going through TSA at Cleveland the afternoon of June 12th? Attached is a picture of the scarf, which you can see is hardly a security risk.

I asked the woman on duty why I needed to take it off — very politely, I might add — and she basically told me they had to check all scarves and to put it in the bowl. I searched the web, including your website looking for references to scarves and found only references to head scarves and scarves which cover the face.

I even blogged about the experience to see if anyone had any ideas about why this was necessary.

I truly am not trying to be rude. I’ve no aversion to taking it off if there’s a valid reason. I’m happy to remove my shoes, take off my belt, be scanned and/or patted down. I understand these actions may be necessary to keep us safe. However, the scarf thing seemed a little excessive.

Please advise.

Thank you.

Kym Lucas

They actually replied. Twice! Here is what they said.

TSA response, take one:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the screening of passengers wearing bulky clothing.

The primary purpose of passenger screening is to prevent the introduction of deadly or dangerous items into an airport secured area or onboard an aircraft. The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity, respect, and courtesy. Each Federal screener receives training on professional and courteous conduct to make the process run smoothly and to reduce inconvenience to the traveling public.

All members of the traveling public are permitted to wear any type of clothing they wish through the security checkpoint. Individuals may be referred for additional screening if the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) cannot reasonably determine that the clothing is free of a prohibited item. This policy extends to all clothing items and is not directed to any particular item or group.

TSOs will use their professional discretion to determine if a particular item could hide a threatening object. Passengers may be asked to remove their outerwear, as TSA requires all passengers to remove outerwear such as suit jackets and blazers, athletic warm-up jackets, and sport coats for x-ray before proceeding through the walk-through metal detectors. It is important to note that if a sport coat or blazer is worn as the innermost garment – not over a blouse or sweater, for example – it does not have to be removed.

Well, thanks, but that doesn’t really answer my question. If I’d been dressed in my winter woolies with a big snuggly scarf around my neck, I believe the above email would explain the incident. But the scarf in question (see previous posting) could hardly be called bulky. And it would take some stretch of the imagination and a certain amount of ingenuity to believe it could hide a threatening object.

Ah, well, on to TSA response, take two.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the removal of personal items at security screening checkpoints.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) strongly recommends that passengers remove all items and accessories from their pockets before beginning the security screening process. Removing items such as wallets, belts, bulky jewelry, money, keys, and cell phones may reduce the chances of requiring a passenger to undergo additional screening to resolve an alarm of the Walk-Through Metal Detector (WTMD) or resolve an anomaly discovered during Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening. To avoid the chance of leaving personal items behind, we recommend passengers place their belongings in their carry-on baggage before entering the checkpoint.

For tips and further information about security screening, please visit TSA’s Web site at

We hope this information is helpful.

TSA Contact Center

NOTICE: The information contained in this message and any attachments is privileged and confidential and therefore protected from disclosure. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, or an employee or agent who is responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. Senture does not accept liability for changes to this message after it was sent. The views expressed in this e-mail do not necessarily reflect the views of the company. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender immediately by replying via e-mail to this message and deleting this information from your computer.

Even less enlightening except now I’m a little worried I’ll end up on someone’s list for sharing TSA’s reply.

Summation: I’m chalking up the incident to a cranky and/or paranoid agent who wanted to make me take it off. That said, I will reiterate, the only reason this bothered me was because it seemed so random, even pointless. Also, although their response was less than relevant, it was quick — I got the answering email less than forty-eight hours after mine.

On to bigger — and one hopes better — rants and raves!

About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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2 Responses to My Scarf, the Security Risk, Part 2

  1. marylou anderson says:

    That is so TYPICAL!
    They may have a thing or two to say about you sharing this–experience, but I believe the restrictions are so other people don’t discover they’re REAL INEPTITUDE.
    Their ridiculous response shows how out of touch with the traveling public they really are.
    But Hey TSA loves me too.
    My very first experience flying after 9/11 was in 2005, and I was nearly arrested for bird—do-do—ahem- on my shoe—which I called to the attention of the “in-training” TSOs. Yes plural– TSOs. With no supervisory over view. Honestly.
    One woman “swabbed” my shoe since, she reminded me, I am part of a “protected class” (really?) and don’t have to remove my shoes when I travel because of my leg brace.
    Again, I pointed out to her and her pal that it appeared to be bird manure on my shoe. How it got there the Lord only knows.
    “Not to worry”, she tells me, “we’re just checking your shoes to see if there’s a HIGH concentration of NITROGEN on them which might indicate you were tramping thru or around a lot of fertilizer…
    Naturally..the shoe with the bird dung alarmed….. as loud as a klaxon, which sent those two women into a swoon.
    They next consulted their 2 page list of what to do if the alarm went off as they ran in circles, waving the list over their heads and screaming in the 4 X 6 space allotted to checking wheelchair bound passengers @ PIT Int’l.
    I laughed until I cried until it dawned on me I MIGHT be in some sort of trouble here, thru no fault of my own.
    They next ran screaming to a TSA agent right outside the closet who was checking thru business travelers, and who looked at them both, AND me like we all were nuts…..
    The guy immediately yanked my wheelchair aside so their boss, when they could locate him, could grill me…literally. I felt like I was in Soviet Russia. It was a terrifying moment.
    Until I smartened up andI became annoyed with their: give me your name, rank, and serial number routine–only in this case it was my Social Security number they demanded–which I told them was not relevant to this situation and was need to know ONLY….. and they didn’t need to know.
    Eventually I was forced to sign a WAIVER that stated I: 1) had “something suspicious on my person” (aka ON my shoe); 2) was NOT compliant with their “questioning” and 3) refused to give the most basic info –WHICH WAS (hello!) on my ticket and driver’s license which they threatened to take away from me…permanently!
    I’m NOT making this up.
    I put up a fuss over their treatment for 10 minutes eventually signed the darn paper –a copy of the”waiver’ was refused me.
    I retold this story to the stunned TSA super In St Louis and again to the TSA super @ McCarran (‘Vegas Int’l) who told me to in no uncertain terms report the entire incident to the regional/ airport TSA officer who was over all the TSOs involved. “they ought to be fired,” she said. “They violated all procedures with that kind of behavior.”

    So I reported them by e-mail and letter. and still have the ridiculous e-mails to prove it. at the very end of our many back and forth e-mails and phone calls (you DON’T want them to call you) the woman in charge wanted ME to give a sworn statement to the BIG BOss…I said “sure let me have the date and time so my attorney and I can arrange to meet at your offices.” WHOA..BIG PROBLEM-O with that little scenario. I had an attorney .
    NEVER heard a peep from her again. She was replaced six months later.
    And that was only the beginning of my adventures with these folks.


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