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TSA Takes To Twitter For AMA

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's the holiday season - packed buses, jammed-up freeways and millions heading to the airport with suitcases full of, well, anything you might imagine.

BOB BURNS: When you see some of these items, you just have to wonder what the thought process is while they were packing.

SIMON: That's Bob Burns of the Transportation Security Administration. He used to screen passengers at the Cincinnati airport.

BURNS: You have one person that goes back and forth, trying to figure out whether or not they can bring their finger-nail clippers, which are allowed, by the way. Then you have the next person that just, you know, brings a loaded firearm or a chainsaw.

SIMON: Mr. Burns now runs the TSA's Instagram account, which might be a semi-official catalog of the craziest things people have tried to take through airport security.

BURNS: When something is a significant prohibited item, like a large knife or a grenade - something of that nature - it generates an incident report.

SIMON: I'll bet. Those incident reports include a picture which Bob Burns posts to educate the traveling public about what they shouldn't try to cram into a fanny pack.

There's also the TSA's Twitter account, @AskTSA, where people ask things like, can I bring a large container of cut watermelon through a checkpoint? Answer - yes. But meatballs, for example, are allowed in your carry-on. But the marinara sauce must be less than 3.4 ounces.

What about a belt with a hidden pullout knife? Nah. A spiked, metal gladiator helmet? Only in checked baggage, which is why you often see gladiators at the luggage carousel. And then, once, says Bob Burns...

BURNS: Somebody had a dummy that looked like a rotting corpse. It was used as a prop. And I believe it was "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." And they brought it to the airport on a wheelchair. And then, in order to screen it, we had to put it through the X-rays.

SIMON: But it got attention.

BURNS: We're not in the entertainment industry. But we just like to keep people entertained so they'll stick around. So when we have something important to say, they'll be there to hear it.

SIMON: Such as, you can bring a wooden chicken on a domestic flight. And they don't flop over the armrest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.