The Transportation Security Administration stopped a man in Virginia's Richmond International Airport late last week after discovering a double-edged knife hidden inside his gaming laptop.
According to the TSA, the man, hailing from Williamsburg, Va., was going through security on November 11 when the officer at the security checkpoint noticed a knife in the man's carry-on bag via an X-ray machine. However, when the bag was searched and the contents were separated, no knife was found. When each item was re-screened individually, the knife appeared inside the laptop.
"After obtaining tools that could disassemble the laptop, a double-edged knife was found to have been artfully concealed inside the guts of the computer." In images from the TSA, the knife appears to be fixed to the bottom casing. The TSA claims that the owner first claimed he knew nothing about a knife in his laptop but confirmed it was his blade after the laptop was opened.
We open a lot of laptops, and our expert opinion is that those tools were probably a small Phillips head screwdriver and maybe something to pry the lid off. The laptop, from the TSA's photos, appears to be a Gigabyte Aorus gaming notebook. You can see the battery is from G-Style Ltd., a Taiwanese component supplier affiliated with Gigabyte. The bottom casing appears very similar to many Aorus models that we have reviewed.
If I may put my nerd glasses on...
The laptop has upgradeable RAM (which is good because the sticks appear to be damaged), and the SSD, while under a thermal pad, is also replaceable. There's also access to the Wi-Fi card and battery. Unfortunately, the fans are filthy and should be cleaned.
"This was a superb job on the part of our officers to first identify the threat and then work in partnership with the Capital Region Airport Commission Police to obtain tools that were necessary to disassemble the laptop to reveal the knife," Robin "Chuck" Burke, TSA's federal security director for Richmond International Airport said. "Detecting artfully concealed weapons points to the training and skill of our officers who are focused on their mission to ensure that prohibited items that could cause harm are not carried onto flights."
Burke added that the man faces a "stiff federal civil penalty." The TSA's press release also pointed out that if the man has TSA PreCheck, he will lose his privileges (as is the case for anyone who brings a weapon to airport security).
According to the TSA's Enforcement Sanction Guidance Policy, sharp objects, including double-edge knives or daggers, throwing stars (including 3D-printed throwing stars), axes and hatchets, meat cleavers, fencing foils, machetes, gravity knives and other sharp objects could lead to a fine ranging from $390 to $2,250.
While "ordinary artful concealment," like a cane sword or a pen knife, can lead to a fine of $530 to $2,250, "extraordinary artful concealment," including a book hollowed out to fit a dangerous item, could range from $5,320 to $10,700. The TSA hasn't confirmed the classification of this incident, but we imagine knives hidden in laptops count in the second range. Note, however, that these numbers are from a document updated more recently than the incident and may have changed slightly.
Any further information on the traveler, including his identity, where he was traveling or his motive was not disclosed.
While it is essential that travelers feel safe, the number of incidents like this are rare. A recent report from The Verge states that the TSA "has played next to no role in the biggest counterterrorism stories of the past two decades," and that some of the highest profile attempts boarded aircraft outside of the United States, in airports where the TSA doesn't handle security. That being said, the TSA has an Instagram account that sometimes shows off some interesting finds.
So yes, count this as a win for the TSA (and, I suppose, that poor chassis trying to hold everything together). But don't bring knives on airplanes, don't conceal them and definitely don't hide them in a laptop. Someone will find them, and you're holding up the line for the rest of us.