Chewbacca actor draws TSA scrutiny with light saber cane

TSA officers held up the actor who plays Chewbacca in the "Star Wars" films from boarding a plane because of his light saber-inspired cane.

Actor Peter Mayhew tweeted a picture of the incident last week at Denver International Airport. He was allowed to board the plane after a short delay, during which TSA employees examined his cane.

Mayhew suggested the tweet helped him get out of the security jam, writing: "Magic words to TSA are not 'please' or 'thank you'.. It's 'Twitter'.. cane released to go home.." 

The TSA on Tuesday said it stopped Mayhew and examined his cane because it was large, not because it was designed to look like a light saber.  

"Because of the unusual weight of the passenger's cane, a security officer alerted a supervisor," the agency said in a statement. "Less than five minutes later, the passenger and cane were cleared to travel." 

The TSA's website actually contains an entry for light sabers in its application for checking its prohibited items list. 

"Sadly, the technology doesn't currently exist to create a real light saber," the TSA website says in response to a search for "light saber": "However, you can pack a toy light saber in your carry-on or checked bag. May the force be with you." 

The agency said the entry existed "well before" the clamor caused by Mayhew's tweet.  

The TSA's website also contains a more serious disclaimer that reads: "Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. 

"The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane," the website says. 

Mayhew's first picture quickly went viral, and Mayhew posted a follow-up message over the weekend saying "we had numerous requests for permission to post the photos I tweeted from Denver Airport last week. Go for it! RT, share & post!" 

The security agency has frequently come under fire for incidents that spread through tweets bt airline passengers with large numbers of followers. 

It has tried to use social media to its advantage by maintaining an active Twitter account and a blog, but its message is often drowned out by tweets like Mayhew's.

Mayhew tweeted on Tuesday morning that he had no problems on his return flight to Denver from Orlando, Fla., writing "No problems ‪@TSA‬ today. It's nice when people are polite. .. ‪#TravelInPeace‬.. Heading home."