TV Crew Arrested For Taking Fake Explosives Through TSA Checkpoint

Filed Under: Media, Security/TSA

Yesterday was quite an eventful day at Newark Airport. First ex-governor Chris Christie made the news for being denied access to the VIP entrance at Newark Airport, though that isn’t the only eventful thing that allegedly happened at the airport yesterday.

Every so often we see reports on just how bad of a job the TSA is doing. Historically they miss about 95% of weapons and explosives, though the latest report suggested that they may be improving, and are now only failing tests 80% of the time.

Some people apparently didn’t get the memo that there’s a difference between the government performing these tests on official business, and a TV news crew performing a test for unknown reasons.

It’s being reported by that at least seven members of a cable television crew were arrested yesterday for trying to sneak fake explosives through a security checkpoint at Newark Airport.

The group was apparently either working directly for CNBC or for Endemol Shine Group, a Dutch production company that contracts with CNBC. Sources indicate that the group was carrying a PVC pipe with wires sticking out from it. Per the story:

The TSA said members of the group “attempted to intentionally carry through the security checkpoint an item in a carry-on bag that had all of the makings of an improvised explosive device.  At the same time, others in the group covertly filmed the encounter.”

“The preliminary investigation indicates that all were in collaboration and claimed to be working for a television network,” Lisa Farbstein, acting director of media relations, wrote in a news release. “The group did not make it past the checkpoint because TSA officers detected the item, which was concealed in a roller bag.”

The incident is being investigated, and the group also faces civil penalties of up to $13,000 for each security violation. It sure sounds like they were trying to do some sort of an undercover piece on the TSA. Clearly they didn’t realize the risk that involves. Or maybe they knew the risks, but assumed they had an 80-95% chance of success.

I’ll be curious to see what kind of punishment this group ends up facing.

  1. This is obviously SUPER stupid and this crew should be ashamed of themselves. But is it technically illegal to try to bring something through that’s ultimately harmless? For example, would it be illegal to bring a realistic toy gun? I can understand that such a thing would get confiscated, but would/should the owner be punished in the courts?

  2. CNBC? I guess there rating is so low they can only hire this type of people. Does anyone remembers when he/she actually turned on CNBC and not just bumped into it in a bar or hotel or something like it?

  3. The TV Crew, will say harmless, as it was. If they would have got thru, then the TV would show ,that the Guys (TSA) Girls,were not doing their job?? fair comment, The problem i have ? is whilst it may be good for TV, it is taking away, distracting from maybe a real villain , taking something similar thru, Their day in court will be , we did it for the viewers, and to check security, Well yes and no? its done for TV , The outcome, don,t jail them, Give them a fine of say a million dollars, which can go to TSA, who in my option, do a great job, Craig. and Liz,. They tried they failed, they pay.

  4. @QR Yes, it would be illegal to bring reasonable facsimiles of dangerous weapons through a security checkpoint. As to your example, a realistic toy gun would be forbidden. The simple reason is that you could just as easily cause mayhem and panic with fake explosives/weapons as real ones (eg, threaten to blow everyone up).

    While I get the idea, surely they could have made some arrangement with TSA management to run and film a test.

  5. @Andy 11235
    Presumably they are hoping TSA would fail at finding their “explosive” so they can call TSA incompetent. Why would TSA management cooperate?

  6. I can’t get a corkscrew through PreCheck, so I’m not surprised they caught the fake bomb. I know a TSA supervisor at a major hub airport and he says that the government tests are purposely hard, not softball stuff like guns. As for this crew, I hope the punishment is severe.

  7. The problem is the tv show probably just hid it in plain sight. The tests conducted by the government are much more sophisticated and involve advanced concealing techniques. This was a stupid idea and I hope that rather than the poor camera crew they can arrest the executive responsible.

  8. “While I get the idea, surely they could have made some arrangement with TSA management to run and film a test.”

    Exactly. Over the years, we’ve seen any number of news media exposes and stories just like this where the “smugglers” had TSA and/or CBP approval, for whatever reasons, to conduct such a test. Often, TSA approves such things hoping to reassure the public about the “great job” they’re doing (feel free to agree or disagree). That, however, is the key – it’s an approved test and when and if the contraband is discovered the media crew can ID themselves and not be arrested. These jokers seem to have done just the opposite.

  9. “While I get the idea, surely they could have made some arrangement with TSA management to run and film a test.”

    the bulky cameras that still use film might have given their plan away


  10. Hopefully they will be severely punished for this. I don’t know what the hell they were thinking when they decided to pull a stunt like this.

  11. Their #1 mistake is that they used a fake bomb. Fake security a.k.a. TSA, has trouble spotting REAL threats, not fake ones like bottled water and cartoonish PVC pipe bombs.

  12. I travel to go camping/fishing and I’m constantly leaving knives in my carry on. They rarely catch it.

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