These Two Questions Could Have Protected a Man From Arrest at Airport Security

When checking in with bags, airlines used to ask two questions.

  • Did you pack these bags yourself?
  • Have they been outside of your possession?

The questions were routinely mocked. They never caught a terrorist. Little did I know they were actually important to uncover rogue mothers packing bags on behalf of their adults sons.

A 22 year old man named Ryan Moore went through security at Baltimore Washington International airport last week. Against all odds the TSA found a 40 caliber rifle in his bag.

He tried on a variation of the Shaggy Defense. He said ‘wasn’t me’. Instead he blamed his mother. She packed his bags he said, and he had no idea there was a rifle in there.

He now faces weapons charges but is likely hoping his mother will give him an advance on his allowance to pay the resulting fine.

If anyone had asked him the two questions, it might have revealed the gun and saved him from charges. And of course had he checked the bags and declared the gun things would have been fine, too.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I had a less-serious but similar experience in 1984 when I was 22. My mother was driving me crazy when she was “helping” me pack for a 2-week study program of which the 2nd week was in Montreal. When I was pulled over at Canada Customs in Niagara Falls, the officer found several plastic Baggies or Zip-Loc bags which Mom had put in there in case I would have leftover food. I immediately thought, “Oh shit!” because even though I was square, I knew that such bags were routinely used by dope dealers to portion marijuana!
    Anyway, they finally sent me on my way after about 20 minutes.

  2. One time in the 1990s I declared in answer of those questions that I had left my suitcase with the bell desk of my hotel for a few hours that afternoon–from check-out time while I went to lunch, etc. until time to go to the airport. My bag was locked, so the gate agent said, ‘OK, no problem.’

  3. These 2 questions, accompanied by a couple more of this kind and followed by an explanation about why they are asked, are still utilized by El Al and by security for any flight departing TLV.

  4. The reason for the questions was Nezar Hindawi’s terrorist attempt. In the late 1980’s in London, he got his Irish girlfriend pregnant. Why not harm Israel and get an abortion at the same time?! So he got help from the Syrian government (Dad of the current President) to put a bomb in her carry on bag and sent her to Israel on El Al promising to marry her. Instead, he tried to flee to Damascus from London.

    Needless to say, the girlfriend was so angry at him and cursed him on the witness stand at trial.

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