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Airport Security

April 1991

During the recent period of heightened security precautions, a MITRE colleague needed to take a portable computer on a business trip to Rome. He went to a lot of trouble to write a letter and have it translated into German, saying that the computer was required for official BFS business, it didnít even have internal batteries, and he would be traveling with BFS personnel who could vouch for him. He had the letter signed by a BFS vice president; the finishing touch was the official stamp.

When he showed his letter during check-in, he was escorted to a remote part of the airport where they wiped his computer with a paper towel, used a special vacuum to sniff both the paper towel and the computer and analyzed it for evidence of explosives. When satisfied that the computer was as it appeared, they wrapped it in a plastic bag and applied a security seal. However, he had not anticipated such an involved process and missed his plane.

When I went to Stockholm a couple of weeks later, I thought that I would bypass the problem by packing the computer in my luggage rather than carrying it on. (Also, my case was weaker than his in that my computer did have batteries and I wasn't traveling with any BFS personnel.) I discovered that at the Frankfurt airport they X-rayed all luggage before you even reached the ticket counter. Viewing my computer on the screen, they said that I had to carry it on.

They then escorted me to a remote part of the airport where they ... etc. As I was two hours early, it didnít matter to me. In fact, since they drove me there in one of their golf carts (I guess they got tired of all the walking after awhile) and afterwards dropped me off at the bus stop for the correct wing, I was probably at the gate earlier than usual!

© Copyright 2000 Jack Ludwick - All Rights Reserved

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