From the cypherpunks list:

Electric Bagpipe shuts down jetport

[Forwarded from the MacDude list, where we're all very happy for
another reminder that bagpipes are respected as military weapons
and not just as musical instruments.... ]

An electronic bagpipe packed in a length of PVC pipe looked so much
like a bomb on an X-ray machine screening baggage that officials
evacuated Portland International Jetport for more than an hour
Tuesday morning.

The airport was shut down at 6 a.m. after one of the Transportation
Security Administration passenger screeners spotted a suspicious
item in the carry-on luggage of a middle-aged local businessman.
The Maine State Police bomb squad was called in, and the man was
interviewed by the FBI and by Portland and state police before the
airport reopened at 7:45 a.m.

More than 300 passengers on eight flights were delayed, but
transportation officials characterized the response as appropriate.

"Everything was by the book," said Portland Transportation Director
Jeff Monroe.

Security officials say they believe the Portland man couldn't have known
how the instrument would look when X-rayed.

"He didn't do anything wrong technically," said Robert Dyer, TSA's
security chief for the jetport. "We've never seen one before."

The man flies frequently and has not been identified as a security risk,
Dyer said. He would not release the man's name.

This is the first time the airport has been evacuated since a series of
bomb threats four years ago, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
that led to more aggressive passenger screening.  Two of the 9/11 hijackers
left from the Portland jetport the morning of the attacks.

The temporary closing of the jetport comes just six days after a threat
was made over a marine radio to the Casco Bay Bridge. That threat shut
down the bridge for several hours while it was searched.

When officials shut down the jetport, planes that were parked alongside
the terminal to take on passengers were moved.  Incoming  planes were
allowed to land, but remained on the tarmac.  A Philadelphia flight that
had been boarding was pulled away from the terminal; it eventually left
without returning to the gate area, leaving six passengers behind.

The incident delayed six flights and canceled a flight bound for Albany, N.Y.

The electronic bagpipe chanter consists of a cylinder with a thin metal
mouthpiece at one end and a battery compartment at the other  with wires
connecting the components.  Bagpipers often use the electronic chanter to
practice because it is much smaller than traditional bagpipes.

In this case, the instrument's components were packed in a protective case
that consisted of white PVC pipe and caps on both ends.

"That is a common way to carry a practice chanter around. That's how
I keep my chanters when I'm not using them," said Susan Mack, a
bagpipe instructor from Pownal.  An electronic bagpipe makes sense for
travelers, she said, because you can wear headphones to play it  without
disturbing anyone.

But to a wary passenger screener, the pipe looked every bit a pipe bomb
and had the things screeners watch for - something resembling a blasting
cap, a container of explosive, and a timer or battery to initiate the

"The combination of all those wires made it look like a pipe bomb,"
said Portland Police Lt. Nelson Bartley. "Obviously it's good that it
turned out to be something that was harmless, but we didn't know that."

The screener who spotted the suspicious item at first thought it was a
computer-generated image that the TSA uses as part of its ongoing
testing regimen, Dyer said.  The screener, whom he would not identify,
pushed an alert button after determining the blue and green shapes on
the X-ray screen were in a piece of luggage.

That triggered a series of responses that included the Portland police
converging on the gate area and removing the passenger to a secure
location to be interviewed.  Authorities did not rely on the man's
description of the contents of his bag to cancel the alert.

"Because of how it appeared on the X-ray machine, it didn't match
up with what he was saying," Dyer said.

Police cleared the gate area and evacuated the jetport, putting many
people onto Metro buses, which were used to help keep the displaced
workers and passengers warm.

In all, about 400 passengers and workers were removed from the jetport.

Eventually, members of the Maine bomb squad, in consultation with federal
explosive disposal experts, determined the device did not pose a threat
and the man was allowed to reclaim it.

Flights began reboarding at 7:45 a.m.  Despite the ordeal, people were
good-natured and understanding, Dyer said.

"We didn't have one complaint from a passenger," he said.

Monroe said the incident serves as a reminder for passengers to
consider what they are packing in carry-on luggage.

He urged passengers to notify screeners if they are carrying items that
might be considered suspicious before they subject them to the X-ray

The owner of the electronic bagpipe chose not to bring the instrument
with him when he finally made his flight. He left it in the trunk of
his car, Dyer said. Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327

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