The incident:

I was preparing to board a flight from DFW to China for a 2 week vacation. I scanned my boarding pass and began walking towards the skybridge to board the plane and a customs agent stepped in front of me and asked if I was carrying more than $5,000 in cash on me, to which I responded "no". He then said "okay, we are doing a test today, you get to help us out with this test and can tell your friends about it won't that be cool?" and had me put on a jacket which looked roughly similar to the one I had on. I thought "okay, this is kinda weird but whatever I'll help you guys out".

I should mention this guy had a thick Russian accent/imperfect English, but his uniform looked legit. At no point during this engagement did he explain helping with this test was optional. He held onto my passport while I put on the jacket (over the jacket I was already wearing) and I proceeded to walk down the skybridge towards the plane, but he almost immediately stopped me and said "walk slowly". At the other end of the skybridge there were about 4 - 8 TSA agents and a sniffer/drug dog. At this point I got skeptical of the situation and started feeling around the jacket expecting to find some sort of contraband, and then ended up finding a big brick-shaped lump of what I am guessing was either drugs, fake drugs or cash either in the jacket pocket or sewn into the jacket itself. I held up the lump inside the jacket and looked toward the agent with a 'wtf?' look on my face, to which he responded "it is currency".

At this point I had become even more skeptical, took off the jacket and returned it to the agent and asked for my passport back. I then proceeded to board the plane without the jacket and all of the TSA agents reacted with a big "aaaahh man!" as if they really wanted me to board the plane with that jacket on.

This was my first time flying overseas, but I'm guessing this isn't standard procedure.

Has anyone experienced something similar to this? Did these guys attempt to plant drugs on me?

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    I would highly recommend you contact the TSA for comment. If this is a genuine test, they can confirm it and hopefully get better about communicating it. If it's not, then those agents have some explaining to do. – Kyralessa Dec 4 '19 at 9:22
  • Only TSA can answer this. Any other answer you receive here will be based on hypotheses ace feelings. Hence why I'm voting to close. – JoErNanO Dec 4 '19 at 22:52

It sounds like they may have been doing a dog training or testing exercise. Probably the less the target (you) knows about what's going to happen, the more realistic the exercise. If you knew that you were carrying currency, and knew that the dog was going to look for it, then you might act differently than if you didn't know.

There are probably other possible explanations, but with that number of TSA agents standing around, it's not likely to have been anything like them trying to trick you. They probably held your passport to ensure you didn't run off with the cash. It does sound highly unusual though.

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    Why would they use a random traveler to do that, though? And why would he not explain that participation was optional? I can see them training with their own CBP and TSA employees, but to do this with a random traveler seems very strange to me. – Brad Dec 4 '19 at 1:38
  • I don't really know, but it doesn't seem likely someone who wanted to plant drugs on you would do it by asking you to wear a strange jacket in an area full of CCTV and many witnesses. – Zach Lipton Dec 4 '19 at 2:53
  • They have to train the dogs in a real world scenario somehow. By asking a traveller to help them out, they can train the dogs in a controlled environment – Matthew Barclay Dec 4 '19 at 4:12
  • In this day and age this seems like an utterly crazy way to do a test. That it's a setup or some kind of illegal thing seems more likely than that a TSA agent would randomly select a traveler to do this kind of test. – Kyralessa Dec 4 '19 at 9:21

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