Flying Without an Overcoat a Sign of Terrorism?

Will flying without an overcoat be the next item to place you on the terrorism watch list?

The would-be Christmas Day bomber boarded his flight in Amsterdam to frigid Detroit with no coat — perhaps the final warning sign that went unnoticed leading up to what could have been a catastrophic terrorist attack, lawmakers were told.

..."He was flying into Detroit without a coat. That's interesting if you've ever been in Detroit in December," New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said after a briefing by presidential counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

How will they distinguish between someone who originated their trip in a cold climate, flew to warm climate and then was on their way back to the cold? When I've flown home to Colorado in the winter from a warm climate, I don't have a coat with me. I've either left one in the car I parked at the airport or asked the person picking me up to bring it. Who wants to schlep a winter coat to the tropics?

As for not having luggage, many people (including me) ship it via Fedex ahead of time. [More...]

United Airlines has an easy feature on their website where for $79., Fedex will come to your house or office, pick up your suitcase and deliver it to your hotel or other place in the destination city. Considering the airlines charge $25.00 or more to check the bag, and the requirement that you have to check it 45 minutes ahead of departure, the extra $50 is well worth it.

It's even more worth it if you are flying with two tickets, one to a stopover city and one from the stopover city to your destination. If they are on different airlines, you can't check your baggage all the way through, but have to go out to baggage claim and pick it up when you get to the stopover city, then shelp to the other airline, stand in line to recheck it, go back through security again, and then board the second flight. Shipping ahead via Fedex avoids all that.

Singling out people without coats based on climate of the destination city, or lack of luggage for intrusive searches is just another waste of resources that misses the forest for the trees.

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    If no overcoat or baggage, would (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Green26 on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:03:43 AM EST
    it not be a very good idea for security or customs to ask the person some questions, including do you have you Fed Ex receipts or where is your coat? Does Fed Ex operate from some of these suspect countries? How many people coming from Nigeria ship their bags Fed Ex?

    Jeez, the no baggage, one-way ticket and cash payment has now come up multiple times. Why not ask some questions? Everyone has to take their shoes off. Why not look into no baggage, one-way ticket and no credit card?

    it's been part of the drug courier profile (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:24:17 AM EST
    for decades now. It hasn't stopped the flow of drugs and it won't stop terrorists.

    and now that it's in the media (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:27:15 AM EST
    the handlers of the next terrorist with a bomb will be sure he or she wears a coat and checks luggage, making it a waste of time and inconvenient to the rest of us. They aren't stupid and they do read the news.

    Didn't the 911 terrorists (none / 0) (#9)
    by Green26 on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:42:56 AM EST
    buy one-way tickets and pay with cash, and perhaps have no checked luggage? This was publicized. Yet again, this last terrorist had no checked luggage and paid with cash. He/they didn't change his/their ways from the publicity.

    Compared to the huge inconvenience of everyone having to wait in line, take off shoes and belts, and go through screenings, I don't think it would be a big inconvenience to have TSA check on these other things. And if you thought it was a big inconvenience, then just pay with a credit card and check baggage, or be prepared to explain it. And if you had a one-way ticket, then just explain it. And if you are coming from Nigeria on a one-way cash ticket, with no checked luggage and no coat, be prepared to get some questions and explain it.

    Wouldn't TSA and foreign security's time be better spent doing stuff like this, than frisking non-suspicious grandmas and people traveling with their kids?


    Round trip ticket. (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:26:54 AM EST
    meaning those of us flying on one-way tickets (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:27:44 AM EST
    are now suspect too?

    Don't (none / 0) (#11)
    by lentinel on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 06:37:11 AM EST
    you think that a terrorist on a mission might ask his sponsor to spring for a round-trip ticket for appearance sake?

    My point is that this is all an after-the-fact bandaid approach.
    We'll always be a step behind.

    A more comprehensive approach would be to alter our aggressive and imperialistic foreign policy that continues to make enemies for us. I notice that some countries are not the targets for terrorists.
    Some, like Spain, for example, used to be targets but no longer are.
    Might we learn something from them?


    Better approach pre 9 11: (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:09:43 AM EST
    (1)heed the suspicions of FBI agent in Minnesota re people learning to fly planes with no interest in learning how to land the plane, (2) figure out how to track student visas and to deport person when visa has expired.  

    I think that has been true for a while (none / 0) (#24)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:21:11 AM EST
    I have been pulled aside for additional searching every time I have used a one-way ticket.

    A few yrs. ago (after 9 11), I (none / 0) (#37)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:07:13 AM EST
    bought a one-way ticket from SFO to Ontario CA because my destination was fogged in (also in Southern CA).  On my boarding pass was printed:  "SS."  I was immediately sent to secondary.  When I asked why, the TSA employee sd.:  one-way ticket.  I had pd. with credit card.  

    The questions ain't the problem.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:18:32 AM EST
    it's when the agent asking the questions doesn't like the answers that is the problem...I can only imagine how many false red-flags our scared of our own shadow arses will raise, hassling and delaying the free travel of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.

    Lack of an overcoat doesn't bring down a plane, a one way ticket paid for in cash doesn't bring down a plane, lack of checked luggage doesn't bring down a plane...explosives bring down planes.  If we can effectively screen for explosives our planes will be as safe as they can be.


    But (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:20:02 AM EST
    Add those three together and it looks a little suspicious.

    Looking suspicious... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:43:57 AM EST
    is still legal, last I checked.

    Whats wrong with just screening for explosives?  We have the technology.  No need to have some security guard playing Amazing Kreskin and f*cking with people.


    It may be legal (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:07:30 AM EST
    But then you should not be surprised if you are looked at more closely and asked a few more questions.

    And I agree with you about scanning for explosives.


    I still trust human intelligence (none / 0) (#20)
    by Cream City on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:09:26 AM EST
    more than machines, thanks.  The need is to hire more intelligent humans.

    And again, explosives were not used on 9/11.


    Impenetrable cockpit doors... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:18:22 AM EST
    prevents a 9/11-style attack.

    What about when those intelligent humans start power-tripping?  


    That is not very intelligent of them (none / 0) (#30)
    by Cream City on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 10:06:09 AM EST

    Psychology experiments have shown... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 10:17:15 AM EST
    that even the highly intelligent are susceptible to the power-trip CC...you know this.

    Too true, and I see that every day (none / 0) (#41)
    by Cream City on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:54:02 AM EST
    but I am defining intelligence differently . . . because I also see, every day, how much we need to measure intelligence differently in our society.  (And I try to do so in my work of assessing others' work.  Now, if only employers would do better in how they assess what we teachers try to tell them -- but too many employers don't ask well.)

    That's my worry... (none / 0) (#43)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:43:36 PM EST
    watching the watchers isn't our strong suit.

    Next attack (none / 0) (#32)
    by Salo on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 10:36:05 AM EST
    A deep covered mole pilot. He'll shoot the copilot and navigator and the door will be unpenitrable. They can always be one step ahead. That's how I'd di the AQ training. Get a kid of 18 to go through training and it's all taken care of.

    That seems like a lot of trouble... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:00:34 AM EST
    to crash one plane...much easier ways to kill a couple hundred infidels.

    That's the bonus of shipping luggage ahead ... (none / 0) (#33)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 10:42:02 AM EST
    ... the receipts allow instant tracking of your bags, destination point, accommodation and stay to align with your ID. If UPS/FedEx is too expensive, the 6-10 day postal shipping service gives the same benefits (including parcel tracking, but YMMV).

    Even fliers who look for last minute seating bargains or accommodation bargains can ship to the biz or personal address they're traveling towards.

    It's remarkably flexible, too. You can, for example, register for one day and one night at a destination hotel (to suit your budget and circumstances) and use that time when you arrive to find a longer term bargain if one isn't available when you ship your stuff.

    I've saved a whack of time, hassle and $$$ doing this.


    Questions about that (none / 0) (#36)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:04:35 AM EST
    Do you have to put your bag in a box? Do you lock your bag?

    I've been meaning to look into it, but as long as you are here....


    UPS (none / 0) (#39)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:23:08 AM EST
    will pack it for you

    Packing is my hidden superpower! (none / 0) (#40)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:52:28 AM EST
    I fold my clothing as I'd unpack it so I can just put it into drawers straight out of the box. Use very lightweight cardboard to keep stuff from jumbling up en route.

    Pack a lightweight waterproof nylon athletic bag (or equivalent) with "splillable" stuff like toiletries (inside ziplock bags).

    If you're not anticipating needing an extra bag for, say, stuff you intend to buy and "lug" with you on returning, pack a nylon rain cape instead to serve the same purpose of preventing spillage. (A fold-up pocket cape's a great idea anyway; I usually put that in my carry-on.)

    I take my favorite toiletries in sensible amounts, concentrated ones (if available) or for locations that don't have a lot of shopping should I run out, stuff that multi-tasks.

    I always pack a baby steam iron (the size of my hand), a stainless steel coffee filter -- with 200g of my favorite ground -- and a couple of multi-use household toys I can't live without.

    As for dress shoes and ballgowns, unless a foreign country is making me their queen, I only take presentable walk-arounds which double as biz drag, and travel-friendly shoes/slippers I wear in-flight.


    Just to add, I send a BOX or 2 ahead (none / 0) (#44)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 01:09:26 PM EST
    Best investment for anyone who travels frequently: vinyl mini-trunks. Check your local sports or army surplus store. I like the 18x9x10" paper-lined vinyl mini or 16x16x16" cube. Bigger luggage than that is only an invitation to overpack.

    The trunks lock up, are sturdy and waterproof, and can be used at your destination as mini storage to go under the bed. (I do extra waterproofing at home to be on the safe side.)

    Also available in metal, but that adds weight without much else: I mean, if someone's going to cut into vinyl, they'll break into metal or wood (or luggage) anyway.


    Wow (none / 0) (#1)
    by nycstray on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 10:50:37 PM EST
    my flight back west is just looking like a 'bite my tongue' experience more than I could have imagined. I prob would have worn a coat to the airport, but have been known to put it in my checked bag after I arrive at the airport if I'm going west or to warmer climate. I also may be shipping my bags as the cost to check them is stupid. And I'll have a one way ticket. I hate to think of what my Dot will have to go through.

    I will say though, the date I was thinking of leaving turns out to be the day after Westminster. I have adjusted that in my plans, as I think there will be issues as to how many dogs are in checked baggage. But part of me thinks it might be a good time as they may just pass the canines through with less hassle . .  .

    I'll send out my plea again . . Anyone feel like driving cross country?! {head desk}  Ya know, if it was just me, I'd prob do everything I could to be a 'person who is not a prob' at the airport, but this is getting crazy. I'm worried about my  pets that will be flying with me, deciding whether I can work on my laptop on the plane (I could make my usual serious bucks before Market Week), trying to organize a convenient sched for the people on the other end picking me up . . . .

    And then I have the prob of what to wear through check in. Baggy clothes is my pref, but gosh, I could be hiding 'something' . . .  

    The good news is, I will be getting a valid NY Id so I can leave the state, lol!~

    Oh, and thank you! (none / 0) (#2)
    by nycstray on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 10:54:14 PM EST
    I didn't know about United's bag service! I will be flying them to save $$ (parents have lots o'miles) so sending bag is looking good. More than likely, I'll have to pay the fee to fly pets as baggage and then get serious extra baggage charges for my bag. Me of little faith that is.

    Heh (none / 0) (#3)
    by Steve M on Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 11:08:57 PM EST
    When I flew back from LA last week, I stuffed my winter coat in my garment bag so I wouldn't have to deal with it on the plane.  Easy enough to extract it after you land.

    Maybe the sharp security professional views the absence of a coat as meaningful in combination with other red flags, but it sounds like 20/20 hindsight to me.

    Yes, I do that all the time (none / 0) (#22)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:18:20 AM EST
    I'm always way too hot in the terminals and on the plane - I always pack my coat in a checked bag.

    If they already have more data than they can meaningfully use, what are they going to do when they have to narrow it down based on what clothes we are bringing in which set of bags?

    I heard an interesting interview with an ex-Israeli airport security head who said that none of this is as effective in screening people as a 1 minute chat with each passenger at check-in.


    I travel in a lightweight trek vest and a hoody (none / 0) (#34)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 10:58:31 AM EST
    Trekwear is available in winter and summer weights and you can keep your electronics and valuables on your person. (I use the big pocket on the back to store my laptop and the slippers I wear in-flight.)

    The rest of the stuff I need is in my carry-on. If you're changing climates and need a serious overcoat, at the airport put it in a roll-up garment bag and clip it to your carry-on.


    On the Luggage Thing... (none / 0) (#10)
    by jarober on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 05:29:37 AM EST
    I hadn't thought of it before I read this post, but any traveler with bad knees or hips might want to ship luggage, too.  No standing around (painfully) to pick up the bags, and then no need to carry them (or pay a porter to carry them), either.

    How many people with bad joints would this security check pick up as a false positives?

    Conversely... (none / 0) (#15)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:44:53 AM EST
    ...those of us who travel in the Summer with a coat are now more suspect and prone to being bent-over for a full cavity search.  

    Then don't keep your coat (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by vml68 on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:51:27 AM EST
    there... :-)!

    bent-over for a full cavity search

    It's gonna take all my gumption.... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:00:23 AM EST
    not to clock the fool who asks me to spread 'em if my ticket paid in cash, no checked bags "suspicious" arse gets pulled out of the line come March.  I don't take kindly to sexual assault.

    As a former retail manager (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:06:08 AM EST
    And not really worrying about explosives, but shoplifters, I can tell you that, yes - if someone came in the store in the middle of a Houston summer wearing a big sweatshirt, we did keep our eyes on them.

    Shocking! (none / 0) (#21)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:13:42 AM EST
    "Lock everyone up and throw away the keys (but me)" JB would be suspicious?  I don't believe it.

    BTW--that's very nice strawman you've crafted.


    Reading is Fundamental (none / 0) (#25)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:30:20 AM EST
    I have never, ever advocated for "locking everyone up and throwing away the key", but you already know that because I know you can read and comprehend basic English.

    My position is that if someone chooses to commit a crime, whether it be DUI, assault, robbery, rape, murder, or yes, even getting busted for drugs, then you should be prepared to face the consequences and not whine that "the system is unfair" or "everyone is out to get me".  

    Really - is it too much to ask that someone actually takes responsbility for their own actions? Is personal responsibility a bad thing, nowadays?  My, I do have to try better keep up with fads.

    Not sure what "strawman" you are referring to - I was talking about personal experiences in my career (and what are not uncommon), and if you've ever worked in retail, you'll understand.

    FYI...The specific instance I was thinking about was a woman who was wearing a heavy sweatshirt on a day when it was 90+ degrees.  We just kept our eyes on her (notice, I didn't say we did anything else - just watched), and lo, and behold, when she realized we were watching, she dumped the 10 bras she had stuffed under her shirt and left.  We didn't do anything to her because she techinically hadn't committed a crime.  Funny that - we were kind of hard a$$es that way where we thought people should pay for our merchandise.

    Blows your theory, again.


    Riiiiiiiight... (none / 0) (#26)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:46:21 AM EST
    ...because trying to blow up an airplane is exactly like shoplifting!  Silly me.  

    Um.... (none / 0) (#27)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:48:26 AM EST
    The concept is the same.  People who are not dressed for the season to where they are going, are going to look more suspicious and could be targeted.

    I guess that's a higher level of analysis for you.


    It's not the same. (none / 0) (#28)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 09:56:02 AM EST
    Loss prevention is not the same as preventing terrorism.  Stealing bras does not equate to smuggling explosives on to an airplane.  Not even close.  

    As to your "higher level of analysis", that's what I stated in my original comment.  Please try to keep up.


    "Targeted"... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 10:02:28 AM EST
    almost sounds like terrorist verbiage.

    A relative af mine is an Air Marshall. (none / 0) (#42)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:17:14 PM EST
    He lives in a NE state and almost never wears a coat ("My car and every building is heated. I don't need a coat for the short walk in between.")

    Anyway, I wonder how he feels about this.