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Around a month ago, I entered the US for the first time. A couple of days back, I was reorganizing stuff, and happened to notice three holes:

three holes picture

punched into the side of the bag I had used while entering the US. I don't think this was a random accident - someone bothered to open the bag (I was using a TSA "lock") and taped the three holes from inside the bag using some masking tape.

masking tape picture

This was a new bag, and I'm positive that the holes weren't there when I bought it. Has anyone heard of such a thing happening? Why would the TSA/CBP/other agency drill holes into the bag, when they could've simply opened it? (They could clearly open it since they taped the holes from the inside.) Could they've been inspecting the lining or something?

UPDATE: @Harper mentioned a possible scenario of the logo of the bag getting broken by the baggage handlers. Yes, there was indeed a logo there, and now it's missing. So I guess this is not CBP/TSA's handiwork after all.

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    "Why would the TSA/CBP/other agency drill holes into the bag, when they could've simply opened it?" - to see if there is an illicit substance sandwiched between two layers masquerading as your luggage case. This happens all the time on Customs and Immigration TV shows. – Moo Sep 6 '17 at 1:12
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    Was there a notice from TSA that your bag had been inspected? They leave a slip of paper behind if they open your bag. – user13044 Sep 6 '17 at 1:18
  • @Tom No, there wasn't any notice/sticker. – StrangeAttractor Sep 6 '17 at 2:13
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    How many other airports did you fly through? CBP tends to inspect bags in front of you, TSA leaves a note if they opened your bag without you present.. – user13044 Sep 6 '17 at 3:23
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    @DavidRicherby holes are considered cosmetic damage? – Andy Sep 8 '17 at 16:50
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The three holes are perfectly spaced, and too clean/consistent on both sides to be a rush job with a handheld drill. The dimples on the bottom suggest to me they were punched on a specially made jig.

Look close at the photo and you can see the vestiges of a rectangle around all three holes, making about a 2-hole-width margin around the holes. The rectangle is either a discoloration or a dimpling on the surface. Very subtle.

My guess is, a handle, fitting, logo, bumper, etc. went there.

TSA or baggage handlers broke it off by accident, and asked TSA to try to fix it (since they could get inside the luggage to reach the screws). Or alternately, TSA was looking for concealed contraband, chose to disassemble the piece that goes there, and either didn't care, lost the screws, or didn't want to take the time to reassemble it due to workload. Perhaps the part+screws is in a ziploc bag tucked into a pocket you didn't check.

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    So maybe one should compare with a new specimen of that make and model ... – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 6 '17 at 6:10
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    This was my first reaction as well. In addition, they wouldn't drill three holes in such close proximity either. – Burhan Khalid Sep 6 '17 at 6:59
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    @Harper, there was an "American Tourister" logo right where the holes are. So stupid of me to miss it the first time. – StrangeAttractor Sep 6 '17 at 14:37
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    I would suggest a damage claim against the airline, and failing that a warranty repair request from the manufacturer. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 6 '17 at 22:10
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    Actually seems like they were at least decent enough to tape up the holes for you when they noticed the piece missing — not that it would hold for long, but it might prevent some moisture or what–not from entering. Faith in humanity +1. – can-ned_food Sep 9 '17 at 7:09
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Why would the TSA/CBP/other agency drill holes into the bag, when they could've simply opened it?

Holes are normally drilled when a suspicious trace shows up from another test - for example, there may have been an anomaly on the x-ray, or a sniffer dog may have given an indication.

Smugglers are extremely adept these days at concealments - customs officials have seen such things as fake luggage cases where the outer rigid cases are thicker than they are supposed to be, where the smuggler has sandwiched an illicit substance between two thin layers of rigid plastic.

If you watch various Customs and Border Control TV shows, you will often find cases where officials have conducted a search via drilling into an object - its often quicker and leaves less damage than any attempt to disassemble the item.

In your case, they don't seem to have found anything. I am surprised that this was not done in your presence or a note wasn't left in your luggage as a result.

The US Customs and Border Protection considers claims for damage caused by them in the process of them carrying out their duty.

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USCBP is known to drill into luggage in order to check for explosive material or illicit substances. A few years ago there was a minor uproar over customs officials drilling into a West Indian cricketer's bat when his team was touring in the US.

This is not done trivially; usually, suspicion is raised because of some other test, or because X-rays or other tools cannot penetrate the area of interest. You can file a damage claim, although I cannot speak to the success rate for collecting any compensation.

  • *West Indies cricketer – Midavalo Sep 8 '17 at 2:56
  • @Midavalo There's an edit link below every answer. – David Richerby Sep 9 '17 at 20:09
  • They should drill into phones, just to be sure. – Cœur Sep 11 '17 at 2:26
  • @DavidRicherby - can't edit, as West Indies doesn't conform to the 6 character minimum change. :-( – Danny Schoemann Sep 11 '17 at 11:06
  • "West Indies professional cricket player" would ;) – jwenting Sep 11 '17 at 11:40

protected by Willeke Sep 15 '17 at 15:31

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