The array of potential weapons seized from travelers going through security screening at the Portland International Jetport this year includes drill bits, a baseball bat, brass knuckles and several “credit card knives.”

Like something out of a James Bond film, the black, card-sized rectangles include a fold-out blade and tiny hinges that allow the corners of the card to be folded to form a handle. But in spite of their nefarious appearance, airport security officials say the owners likely weren’t trying to sneak them on board a plane. Instead, they probably forgot they had the items until confronted by security, just like most of the 500 pounds of prohibited items seized so far this year.

“We’re certainly catching these items every day, pretty much every shift,” said John Carter, one of the Transportation Security Administration screeners on hand for a media presentation Wednesday aimed at reducing delays during the busy holiday travel season caused by people inadvertently packing prohibited items in carry-on baggage.

Jay Brainard, TSA’s security director for Maine, said the airlines and the airports count on the TSA doing a thorough but respectful job, because it reflects on them.

“We’re unlike any other federal agency. We have to provide good security and excellent customer service,” he said. “When we don’t look good, it’s not TSA the passenger had a problem with, it’s that they had a bad experience at the airport.”

The most common types of items seized by TSA screeners are liquids, including bottles of wine, cosmetics and maple syrup – anything that exceeds 3 ounces. Carter said the items are destroyed, and screeners do not divvy up the spoils and keep them.


The seized potential weapons are a more recognizable security threat. The TSA display included carving knives that could be used to slice a Thanksgiving turkey, a large barbecue fork and a pair of metal devices in the shape of a cat’s face, with finger holes for eyes and sharp “ears” that could make it a nasty weapon.

The most frequently seized items are knives, ranging from fish filleting knives to ornamental blades to Leatherman-type multi-tools.

This year, Portland TSA screeners discovered four guns – a Derringer, a .22-caliber revolver, a .32-caliber Baretta and a 9 mm Sig Sauer. In each case, the owners had concealed-weapon permits and apparently included the guns in their carry-on luggage by mistake, Carter said. Guns are allowed in checked baggage as long as they are unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case and declared to the airline, said TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy.

Screeners did not confiscate any guns last year.

Travelers who have items confiscated can give them up, put them in their car or, for some items, use the airport’s FedEx station to mail it to themselves, though the latter two will require getting out of the screening line and then going through again.

The TSA asks that passengers consider what’s going into their bags when they’re packing. To check what items are acceptable, passengers can visit

The site also includes helpful hints to cut down on lost luggage, such as taping a business card to a laptop or tablet, and not wrapping gifts that might have to be unwrapped if they trigger questions going through security X-rays.

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