And because I have a fair amount of experience reporting on terrorists, and because terrorist groups produce large quantities of branded knickknacks, I’ve amassed an inspiring collection of al-Qaeda T-shirts, Islamic Jihad flags, Hezbollah videotapes, and inflatable Yasir Arafat dolls (really). All these things I’ve carried with me through airports across the country. I’ve also carried, at various times: pocketknives, matches from hotels in Beirut and Peshawar, dust masks, lengths of rope, cigarette lighters, nail clippers, eight-ounce tubes of toothpaste (in my front pocket), bottles of Fiji Water (which is foreign), and, of course, box cutters. I was selected for secondary
screening four times—out of dozens of passages through security checkpoints—during this extended experiment. At one screening, I was relieved of a pair of nail clippers; during another, a can of shaving cream.
During one secondary inspection, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, I was wearing under my shirt a spectacular, only-in-America device called a “Beerbelly,” a
neoprene sling that holds a polyurethane bladder and drinking tube.