"Your bag was among those selected for physical inspection." - July 1, 2003
Our webmaster, Ron Morris, writes: In case you didn't know, travelers to the U.S. are "advised" to leave their checked baggage unlocked for inspection. If it is not unlocked, officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can break into it. Bags that have been searched this way are easy to spot on the baggage carousel--they are crudely wrapped up in clear packing tape and often have clothes or other objects are sticking out of the edges of the bag. The TSA leaves a card (right) inside your bag informing you it was searched and that they are not liable if they had to break the locks on the bag. The card includes a phone number. When you call the number, it is just an answering machine inviting callers to leave suggestions.
Last time I traveled to U.S., my bag was searched in this way. I later found that the cable for my digital camera had either been lost or stolen (it probably dropped out during the search as it was the last thing I packed and it was on top). I was told by the airline and airport that there was nothing to do to get it back. I left a message with the TSA, but never received a response.
On the way back my bags were searched again. I was surprised to find that helpful government officials had locked both locks on my suitcase. The funny thing is that I have never had a key for the locks. I spent the next two hours prying and sawing open my suitcase.
Apparently theft by the TSA is a major problem and the Washington Post has an article about it. It is the same old story--the TSA has not done background checks on 22,000 of its baggage screeners and is not sure if it is liable if its employees steal: When John Latta flew to Reagan National Airport from Miami last month, he discovered that a $1,000 pair of binoculars was missing from his checked luggage. "What can I do?" he asked an airline agent who took a report. Her answer, Latta said, was: "Nothing. Zero."
Right: Card the TSA leaves inside bags it inspects.