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New TSA Rules Require Separate Screenings for Your iPad, Kindle, Kobo, and Other Tablets and eReaders

I have jokingly said that one of my goals in life is to one day use all of the bins at the airport security checkpoint. The Transportation Security Administration may have just made that a practical reality.

The Verge and a number of other sites are citing a new TSA directive which requires travelers to pull all of their electronics out of their carry-on luggage and feed it through the x-ray machine.

To ensure the security of airline passengers and the nation’s airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing new, stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes. Following extensive testing and successful pilots at 10 airports, TSA plans to expand these measures to all U.S. airports during the weeks and months ahead.

Due to an increased threat to aviation security, DHS Secretary John Kelly announced in late June new security requirements for nearly 280 airports in more than 100 countries. In an effort to raise the baseline for aviation security worldwide, TSA continues to work closely with airports and airlines to enhance security measures and stay ahead of the evolving threat.

“Whether you’re flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

Technically the new rules only cover devices larger than a cell phone, but since that will be in your pocket it’s going to go through the scanner anyway.

The new rule has already gone into effect at ten airports, and will soon expand to other US airports.

They do not apply to passengers in the TSA pre-check program.

I had always been joking about using all the bins, but now that the new rules are here I will be looking at just how many gadgets I really need. Many travelers are going to make the same calculation, but even so you should expect to see longer lines at security.

And if you have to fly during major tech events like CES, god help you. There’s just no way for the press to not bring all of the gadgets they need to do their job, so the wait time at security is going to be astronomical.

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poiboy July 26, 2017 um 3:52 pm

cuz we have numerous occurrences of tech devices blowing up numerous commercial airlines have we??
does the TSA administration eat a bunch of pot brownies.. sit around.. and make stupid policies up?


Allen F July 26, 2017 um 4:30 pm

A big 'yes!' at 'poiboy', that and how to steal from you as well.

I still think we should pick a month (with a big holiday in it!) and everyone skip flying that month.

Or take nothing but a burner phone with you, buying a cheap PC when you get where you need it (if you don’t trust your data to the cloud then mail a memory card/usb to wherever you’re going. Amazon has next day delivery to a lot of places.)

Hit them in their pocketbooks and maybe they’ll stop acting (not an act for too many of them) stupid.

Jason van Gumster July 27, 2017 um 9:11 am

It’s not just devices. I ran into this earlier this year flying through Boston. The power brick to my laptop is larger than a cell phone. *That* needed to be taken out and run through separately, in addition to my tablet, e-reader, and phone.

I’d be curious to know what their metric for being successful was at these pilot airports. Did they actually discover any legitimately dangerous items by adding these inconveniences?

Nate Hoffelder July 27, 2017 um 3:59 pm

that’s going to cause problems.

Rebecca Allen July 27, 2017 um 11:21 am

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this without suggesting I subscribe to some sort of weird conspiracy theory which I don’t really believe in. I do believe that these experiments with increased screening are at least partly sincere — they are attempts to foreclose possible attack vectors. There are real cost / benefit tradeoffs, and that leads me to my actual point. I think part of the goal here is (and I don’t mean this in a conspiracy sense, really, I don’t) to get more people to sign up for Pre Check. Pre Check includes a level of background checking that is not possible to do at the point of going through security (either impractical/impossible or politically too obnoxious to mandate). The greater fraction of the flying public they can get signed up for Pre Check, the easier it is to zero in on the people who can’t or won’t sign up for Pre Check, and really analyze the hell out of whatever they choose to bring in the secure area / onto the plane. The theory of Pre Check is that anyone who gets through that is really not going to be committing terroristic attacks. (Which will be true until it isn’t.) The less time they spend on the people who really are not going to be committing terroristic attacks, the more time and resources they can devote to the remainder. At least, I think that’s what TSA and other security experts are thinking. On the one hand, efficiency! Front Loading Security! On the other hand, I feel bad for everyone who flies too infrequently to justify Pre Check or who can’t qualify for it.

Allen F July 28, 2017 um 1:56 pm

Wouldn’t it be more useful (and cheaper) to just have a few armed undercover cops on each flight? Just the knowledge that they 'may' be there would remove the need of all the current 'security theater' the TSA is playing at.

Heck, let those that have gone through the courses to get concealed carry permits bring their own guns – most of those I know spend a lot more time on the range than your average cop.

One other thing to consider, the TSA has yet to catch a single 'terrorist' – and constantly fail to find guns and other weapons being carried to the planes (both from 'testing' as well as honest mistakes of CCs and cops forgetting they were still packing.)

Tarwin July 27, 2017 um 12:09 pm

Also what’s the official size limit for a cell phone? There are some mighty big phablets.

Nate Hoffelder July 27, 2017 um 12:14 pm

Someone (I think Engadget) raised that issue with th TSA.

We don’t know yet.

Rebecca Allen July 27, 2017 um 1:27 pm

Not a US rule (UK) and not from this regulation (from the earlier, airport specific ban):

So this isn’t so much an answer as a contribution to the discussion.

Tarwin July 27, 2017 um 3:28 pm

Thanks for the link. It’s good to know that they’re also going full tin foil hat and banning large headphones and apparently all Bluetooth headphones (as mentioned in that article).

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 27, 2017 um 8:43 pm

Pre-check is 80 dollars a year. You might get a business to pay for that, but families who travel two to four times a year aren’t going to fork over than kind of money to shuffle through with their two or three kids. I don’t think all this extra effort is for any good reason at all. Last time I flew, the TSA was walking down the line asking everyone to take any food out of their packs. I happened to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I asked if I really needed to take it out of my backpack. She said, "If you think it might delay you getting through." Helpful since I can’t imagine what they might have been looking for or why "food" was a sudden concern. The lines were very slow that day and they stopped them SEVERAL times. Nothing moved while they re-inserted packs that had gone through. Turns out they were training new people. But how taking out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was going to help train anyone is beyond me. It’s a ridiculous procedure that wastes an enormous amount of time. I’m not a fan and I fly as seldom as possible. Freedoms are quickly lost in the name of "security."

Nate Hoffelder July 27, 2017 um 8:50 pm

I thought it was $85 for 5 years?

Frank July 28, 2017 um 8:58 am

It is under 100 bucks for a five-year period.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 28, 2017 um 1:57 pm

I could be wrong, but I looked it up a couple of months ago and I thought that it said 80 dollars per year. Either way, I don’t see more than two to four people use that line while I’m standing in my line. It’s not all that popular.

Rebecca Allen July 28, 2017 um 11:52 pm

5 years, $85. And you don’t have to register your kids if they will only be traveling with people who have precheck.

From that website’s FAQ:

"There is no age restriction to apply for TSA Pre?®. However, family members ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible parent or guardian with a TSA Pre?® indicator on their boarding pass can participate in expedited screening."

So a non hypothetical family of two adults with Pre Check and two children ages 12 and under could get Pre Check for the fam for the low low price of $170, per year it works out to $34 per year, or $8.50 per person (less if you have more than 2 kids under 12$). If the non hypothetical family travels, to quote Maria, "two to four times per year", and assuming they all go to The World or to visit family or whatever together, the cost per trip is under $5 per person per trip. LESS THAN MOST SNACKS ON A PLANE.

Please feel free to correct my math. I’m betting there is an error in there somewhere. Obviously, the non-hypothetical family is my own. My eldest will turn 12 this year, so after this year, we’ll have to sign him up. Since we go to Europe about every two years to visit family, I may sign him up for Global Entry, which is a little more, and when the time comes to renew, we may renew with Global Entry rather than Pre Check. TSA used to pull families out of the regular line to fill the Pre Check line, especially in Orlando; they stopped doing that a while back, but after we’d signed up for Pre Check. I would _never ever ever_ go back. It is easily the most worthwhile money I’ve spent for anything travel related (and I’ve bought some pretty awesome luggage over the years). Not having to take your shoes off and your electronics out is Gold.

Rebecca Allen July 28, 2017 um 11:55 pm

Sorry about the typos. There shouldn’t be a dollar sign after the age 12. And I probably should have said $8.50 per person per year. Maria notes that there are rarely many people in the line. Believe me, I love this feature, but the reality is that a fair number of people use the line — it just moves so much faster because you don’t have to unpack your bag into the bins.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 29, 2017 um 4:50 pm

Thanks for looking it up. For whatever reason, I don’t see a lot of people using it and I face that line at least half the time I’m waiting in the Austin airport line. I’d probably apply if it were free, (I looked it up for a reason) but it’s still 85 upfront for 5 years and I don’t fly often enough to feel it’s worth the government sticking their nose everywhere. I try NOT to fly because it’s so cumbersome with the x-rays, the full flights, the stuffed overheads, the cost, etc. It’s just not pleasant, not even remotely so. The only thing it has going for it is that it’s fast. So at this point, you don’t have to worry about me joining that pre-check line. I’d have to fly more than 4 times a year to even consider it and thank God I don’t!

Conrad July 31, 2017 um 10:26 am

They had this rule (screening all tablets) in Europe for a while now and occasionally I had to pull out chargers, cable (even had an umbrella pulled out from my carry on and opened in Amsterdam when coming back to the US this year!) and over all it’s no big deal imho – have to take out 3 devices (reader, ipad, laptop) and spread them out in usually 2 bins, put chargers in backpack just in case, but like with liquids, emptying your portable water bottle or taking out the belt, once you do it once, it becomes second nature and the wait times actually seemed much better pretty much everywhere (where staff wasn’t on strike or such of course) as there seemed to be more lines opened etc; so I would say that this is no big deal and much, much better than not allowing you devices on the plane as was considered earlier

Regarding pre-check – thought about it especially that I can use miles to pay for it, but never found the time until now and I would say that unless you fly more than 10-15 times a year it’s not really worth (I fly probably 4-5 times so need to go through security some 10-15 times with international changes)

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