Selling Fake Bomb Detectors Lands UK Businessman In Jail

fake bomb detectors
What Bolton and McCormick really deserve. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Back in April we brought you the story of James McCormick, who was found guilty in a British court of selling fake bomb detectors to several nations, including Iraq. When I was traveling in Iraq I saw his useless products, based on a novelty golf ball detector, being used at checkpoints everywhere. McCormick endangered the lives of countless people, including myself, and I’m glad to report that he’s now serving ten years in jail.

Well, not totally glad. A life sentence would be far more appropriate, but corrupt businessmen so rarely end up behind bars I’ll take what I can get.

Now another UK businessman has been sent to jail for peddling fake bomb detectors.

Gary Bolton, 47, of Chatham, Kent, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling what he claimed were sophisticated electronic devices. In fact, they were simply little plastic boxes with handles and antennae. The prosecution proved that Bolton knew they didn’t work yet his company Global Technical Ltd. sold them for thousands of dollars apiece to numerous security and law enforcement agencies in half a dozen countries, including Mexico and Thailand. Bolton also claimed they could detect drugs, cash, tobacco and ivory.

It appears Bolton may have been inspired by the success of McCormick’s bogus device, as one of them was found in Bolton’s home.

Who’s up for a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering?

Shocking Things The TSA Gets Away With


To many people, airport security is something of a necessary evil — a royal pain in the behind that they tolerate because ultimately, it’s designed to keep us safer. But a new study into the Transportation Security Administration raises questions about just how well the agency actually protects us. Airport screeners have been accused of everything from sleeping on the job to stealing and accepting bribes. And many are not really penalized for their actions.

An audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed some shocking behavior by TSA agents stationed at airports around the country. In several instances, agents were found sleeping while on duty. Other agents might as well have been asleep given that they allegedly let people pass through to the secure zone of the airport without actually going through the screening process.According to the report, the agency has processed 56 cases of theft by TSA agents over the past three years. That included one agent at Orlando Airport who confessed to swiping more than 80 laptops from passengers. (These neglected to make an appearance on the agency’s new Instagram feed of confiscated goods.) Other disciplinary issues involve things like “neglect of duty,” credit card abuse and even bribery. In one such case last year, TSA agents were accused of pocketing bribes from drug traffickers in Los Angeles.

TSA Agent asleep
TheeErin, Flickr

The number of allegations against TSA employees runs well into the thousands, but the GAO says few of the agents were adequately punished for their behavior. In some cases, TSA agents were disciplined by their superiors after very little investigation, while in others, agents guilty of misconduct barely received a slap on the wrist.

The findings of the audit are unfortunate for an agency already facing public scrutiny. Just recently, the TSA came under fire for telling a 15-year-old girl that her clothes were too revealing. They have also been criticized for racially profiling passengers, and aggressively screening young children.

Heathrow Is Now Tracking How Late You Are

eGuide Travel, Flickr

Is your flight in 30 minutes or 45? You don’t have time to look at your boarding pass, so you hustle as fast as you can, awkwardly managing your oversized carry-on which you know that you are going to get scolded for. When you get to security, instead of being waved through you are turned right back around and sent off to the check-in gate. You won’t be making your plane, and the pilot of your flight knows it.

Creepy or helpful?

While it might feel Big Brotherish, Heathrow Airport’s new “positive boarding” initiative is intended to help not only keep flights on time, but also ensure that passengers have up to date information to know how much they need to hustle or not.

When a passenger passes through a security checkpoint now, individual information about that passenger will pop up on the screen, showing which flight they are on and whether or not they are going to be able to make it. Passengers who are too late will be turned around, and the information will be passed along to the airline so that they can immediately begin removing the passenger’s bag.Although Heathrow claims it’s the first technology of its kind, tracking passengers is nothing new. In Italy, a couple of airports track Bluetooth signals, and SITA is a known service that provides real-time tracking software and line management.

This all might sound like an excessive use of technology, but Heathrow claims that in the first week of using its new service, 35,000 passengers used the positive boarding technology as part of their trip. Data shows that of the airlines using the technology, 44% of the flights had passengers who could have delayed the final departure. 10 passengers who were running very late were turned around and told they didn’t have the time to make it through security. Those 10 passengers probably weren’t too happy, but I’m sure that the passengers on the flights that departed promptly were satisfied. All the more reason to give yourself ample time to get to the airport and board your plane.

Why Are Customs Lines So Long At U.S. Airports?

customs linesDelta CEO Richard Anderson made news on Wednesday when he vented about U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) alleged inability to quickly screen passengers coming off of international flights at major U.S. airports.

“I must say I think it’s an embarrassment for our government that as much as we as an industry pay into Customs And Border Patrol that we have issues at not just JFK but at Newark, at Chicago, at Los Angeles where we cannot seem to get our government to perform a very basic service,” he told Airline analyst Helane Becker of Cowen and Co, according to a story in the Dallas Morning News.

I don’t disagree with Anderson. In fact, I wrote a piece venting about the fact that I waited 90 minutes to clear customs in Houston in February. But as a former Foreign Service Officer who has interviewed thousands of foreign nationals applying for U.S. visas and once spent a day alongside a CBP officer working at JFK, I can offer a little more context as to why the lines are so long, other than the obvious fact that there aren’t enough CPB officers to control the crowds.Most U.S. airports have two lines: one for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPR’s or green card holders) and another for foreign nationals. Interviews with American citizens are nearly always perfunctory but screening LPR’s can take longer. Many Americans don’t realize that green card holders can lose their legal status if they remain outside the U.S. for more than a year unless they can prove extenuating circumstances.

Because we don’t typically stamp travelers on their way out of the country, it can be time consuming for CBP officers to verify how long legal residents were outside the country. Also, many LPR’s don’t speak English, which can slow down the screening process. If we want to speed up the screening process for Americans returning home, the easiest way to do so would be to have LPR’s use the line for foreign nationals. They would hate that solution but if they aren’t U.S. citizens, technically, they are foreign nationals.

Obviously it would be preferable to simply increase CBP staffing, but with government coffers stretched thin across the board, this option seems unlikely. Why are the lines to screen foreign nationals so long? In short, because CBP officers face a very difficult task.

They have just a couple minutes to try to ascertain if the individual standing before them intends to abide by U.S. laws or not. Often times, these travelers speak no English — and most officers can also speak a second language, usually Spanish, but travelers come to the U.S. from every corner of the globe. They have a tough, thankless job and some are better than others at being friendly and welcoming.

Fashion Do’s And Don’ts From The TSA


When talking about airport security, we generally focus on what travelers are carrying, not what they’re wearing. But thanks to the TSA recently cracking down on passengers’ fashion choices, style is now a part of the airport security conversation. Forget regulations on liquids or weapons: the TSA’s new security threat is clothing, accessories and hairdos, or so they seem to think.

On July 16th, a TSA spokeswoman tweeted a photo of black pumps that had small replica guns as heels. The shoes were confiscated by the TSA at New York’s Laguardia Airport despite the fact that they could have been easily verified as non-weapons. Also in the tweeted photograph was a black belt lined with mock silver bullets. While mock weapons aren’t ever supposed to be admitted on planes, I have to wonder: how far does that regulation extend? Would a charm bracelet with a mock handgun be permitted?

The TSA’s fashion crackdown has also come to include dreadlocks. Numerous reports have surfaced involving hair searches if the passenger sports dreads. Other style conflicts include an instance in which a male TSA officer recently told a 15-year-old traveler to cover herself in a criticism of her tank top, leggings and button-down shirt (not that it matters; it’s not appropriate for a TSA officer to remark on the perceived modesty or lack thereof in regard to passenger clothing).The TSA’s Fashion Dont’s include (or seem to include):

  • Don’t wear accessories that include mock weapons or accessories for weapons, no matter how small or obviously fake.
  • Don’t wear loose head coverings, religious or otherwise.
  • Don’t wear body piercings.
  • Don’t wear thick shirts.
  • Don’t wear studded clothing.
  • Don’t have dreadlocks.
  • Don’t wear tank tops.

Do’s include:

  • Do wear slip-on shoes.
  • Do wear comfortable, layered clothing.
  • Do remove as much jewelry beforehand as possible.

Have your fashion choices been judged by the TSA? Share your stories in the comments below.