TSA screeners at New York's LaGuardia Airport are getting a lot of heat after they removed two pipes from a traveler's bag on Monday and set them aside for six hours before workers on the next shift found them and alerted local and federal officials, fearing they may be pipe bombs.
The incident began at 11:30 a.m. when a screener discovered the unidentifiable items inside a passenger's carry-on bag. The officer screened them for explosives, checked with his supervisor, determined them not to be a threat, and cleared the passenger through the checkpoint without taking down any information, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials. However, the officer prevented the metal items from passing through because of their material and appearance.
When the next shift arrived several hours later, an officer saw the items and mistakenly believed they were test objects, used to check screener proficiency. Soon, however, the officer realized that they were not test items and alerted others. TSA then contacted the Port Authority Police Department, responsible for protecting the airport.
Port Authority police later contacted the NYPD bomb squad because no one could give a good account of what it was.
The checkpoint was not closed, nor was the terminal evacuated during the incident because the bomb squad was called out of an abundance of caution, the TSA said.
Around 5:30 p.m. -- six hours after they were taken from the passenger - the bomb squad removed the items and took them to a remote location in the Bronx for examination and disposal.
Port Authority police were still unsure what the items were or what they were composed of Tuesday morning, though many speculate they were homeopathic medical devices.
Harmless or not, many were outraged over the six-hour delay.
Six hours to report a potential bomb? It's outrageous, one Port Authority police official told The New York Post.
The incident is just the latest in a series of embarrassments for the TSA, which recently suspended eight airport security workers at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport for failing to check luggage for potential bombs, sleeping while on duty, and allegedly stealing from passengers.
TSA incidents last week included a run in with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on Monday and a security scare at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday after a TSA officer mistook a diabetic woman's insulin pump for a weapon.