New Arbitrary TSA requirement: all electronics out of your bag (cables, too)


I thought it was silly when a TSA agent at the Oakland airport asked me with concern in her voice to remove my thin cotton sweater before walking through the metal detector this afternoon, but it sounds like things are even sillier at San Francisco Airport. Scott Beale reports:

Wow, flying out of SFO just became much worse. While traveling this morning I surprised to find out that TSA is now requiring that you remove all electronic devices from your carry-on bags, including cables etc. and place them in a separate bin to be scanned at the security checkpoints. Along with slowing down the line to a crawl, this will undoubtedly lead to people losing expensive equipment, not to mention the possiblity for your stuff to be accidentally taken by someone else or even stolen.

Of course none of this information is mentioned on either the TSA or SFO websites.

Does anyone know if TSA is requiring this at any other airports?



  1. I ran into this at O’Hare over the holidays. I was carrying a treo and an ipod touch. The TSA people spent a few minutes chatting with each other about the ipod touch. They also had me pry it out of its CLEAR PLASTIC case.

    Considering the line it was kind of irksome.

  2. This is od because just last week I was going through at Cleveland and the agent told me I could leave my laptop in my bag (with all other electronics) as I was about to take it out. I asked why I didn’t have to take it out and the agent said they had new scanning equipment.

  3. …welll…it….is…….start-…….ing …….to…ahhhh,…….look………….every…
    …..sloowwwwlly…until…..the…. system
    collapses….and ….they…….give….up!

  4. The last time I flew was from Milwaukee to Boston and they had me put my laptop and bag in separate bins from my shoes and purse, but my phone could go in beside the purse as long as it wasn’t touching it. I cannot even begin to imagine how many bins actual businesspeople are going to need if they have to use a separate one for each item.

  5. this was not the case at San Jose, Logon, JFK, or La Guardia in the past two weeks… I’ve been doing some traveling lately…

  6. I just flew out from the San Antonio airport two days ago, and was required to do this. A hell of a lot of fun too, as I was making a permanent move with all my belongings (and had all the valuable electronics on my carry-on). Very near to missed my flight, as well. Still, early morning flights out of San Antonio are generally more polite than my experiences elsewhere.

  7. This looks like a subject that should be addressed in the TSA blog. I am quite impressed at the way they are reacting to public worries and queries.

  8. Neither MSP nor Houston (nor, for that matter, San Jose, CR) was doing this when I was there in the past couple of weeks.

  9. This is definitely not the case at Jacksonville International. I left cables, rechargers. digicamera and phone in my backpack. They did rummage through the diaper bag but were satisfied upon discovery that the questionable sippy cup was dead empty.

  10. I just flew from Jackson to Newark last month. They both required laptops to be removed from cases and put in a separate bin, but no other electronic devices. And YES it was definitely slowing the lines…

  11. This past August, I flew form Phoenix to BWI, and they told me I was supposed to take my electronics out of my bag (I wasn’t told to do so when I flew from BWI to Phoenix several days before). Then when I again flew from BWI to Phoenix and then back in November, I left my electronics in my bag, and no one said anything to me.

  12. I hope that this won’t be the case for my flights out of BWI next week. Removing all the cables from my bags would be a HUGE hassle.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t trust checking anything valuable since if it disappears the TSA will blame the baggage handlers who will blame the TSA and it is really a toss up since either group might help themselves to the contents of a bag.

  13. I flew out of ATL to LGA a couple weeks ago; no big deal. Laptop in one bin, bag in another, shoes/phone, etc. in a third. Shuffle through, beep-beep, show them the change in my pocket, gather my stuff as quickly as possible, shuffle over to one of the unused sorting tables to reassemble, on to my gate for coffee. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly things moved, especially during evening rush hour at LGA.

    Of course, these requirements you guys are describing could have been enacted in the meantime. It *has* been a couple weeks, after all.

  14. The TSA agents in Oakland have a strange fixation on making you strip down to your very last shirt before you can pass through the metal detector. I fly out of Oakland regularly, and on several occasions (and usually in the dead of winter!) I’ve had to go through wearing only a skimpy tank-top or an undershirt because the agents threatened me with a search if I covered up. I’ve never had this experience at any other airport – and frankly I’m a little relieved to learn that the rule applies to guys as well as girls.

  15. Stick all your cables and such in a zip lock bag. For one thing, it makes it FAR neater in what ever you’re carrying and you can actually FIND stuff if you need to. And if for some reason someone asks you to take it out, it’s one neat and tidy package.

    I did this years ago working on a scientific research ship where we had a lot of cables to store. Stuck them in a bag and the bag in drawers and end of mess, end of tangles, end of pain.

  16. flying Domestic here in Australia, i’ve had to do this every time i’ve flown in the past year.. Which is a bit of a pain ’cause I’m such a gadget freak..

  17. I’ve been trying to figure out what they could possibly be trying to achieve. All I’ve got is this:

    Create an environment where rational people avoid flying until the only people left flying are the terrorists.

  18. I flew out of Cleveland on Tuesday. Something about me peaked their interest and I was subjected to ‘secondary screening’ which involved a full turnout of my bags – the entire contents of my carry on, as well as my laptop bag. They inspected the actual volume of every liquid, paste, cream, gel, etc. The only thing i wasn’t asked to do was turn on my notebook.

    I especially enjoyed the ‘trophy board’ in cleveland’s security line – A huge glass case on the wall with the caption “A *small* sample of items seized since Sept. 11, 2001”. Inside the case was an artful arrangement of cap guns, claw hammers, knives, throwing stars, etc. Of course, I had none of those in my bags – The TSA goonette grudgingly allowed me to move on to my gate.

  19. I had to go through this flying back to the US from Germany last month. I keep a small studio’s worth of sound recording equipment in my bag, so it was a major hassle. Of course to highlight the stupidity of the situation, two thirds of the way through rummaging around to pull out all of my cables the guard got tired and just told me to forget about it and continue on.
    Terrorists take note: if you’re too obnoxious to deal with in accordance to the TSA’s guidelines, the rules don’t apply.

  20. I was flying from Richmond, VA to Denver, Co, and was told to take all of my electronics out and into a different bin. I’m a photographer, so this was kind of a bitch- my computer bag is full of cables, adapters, cards, everything conceivable. My case made it a bit easier- there’s a spare compartment that snaps off of the main case. However, I did notice one peculiarity:

    My SLR. Before 9/11, i found it standard practice in international travel to be required to either (A) take the lens off of the camera, for inspection, or (B) snap a picture to prove that it’s a working camera. Now, digital cameras can be passed through a x-ray without ruining film, however, so this practice is no longer required.

    This disappoints me, because I was hoping to eventually have a healthy stock of pictures of security officials, and it would make an interesting show. Now, I hate to think what would happen if i were to take a picture of a security official in this day and age. . .

    Anyhoo, I’m surprised because they make you take out your equipment, but not prove that it works. It used to be that you’d have to turn your laptop on, snap your camera, to prove that it wasn’t a bomb in the shape and size of electronics. Now, perhaps their scanning equipment is sophisticated to the point where they can reliably test for the densities of explosive materials, however, it seems insane that they’re taking this extra level of “precaution” without any justification.

    It’s not the levels of security that bother me. International travelers, especially those who’ve been going through Europe since before 9/11, understand that airport security can sometimes wield quite the microscope. The problem in America is that Europeans have been dealing with bomb threats, terrorism, and undesirable hijinks for a lot longer. Their security is a highly efficient laboratory of security professionals.

    America’s airports more closely resemble a high school science class. The people barely know what they’re doing, the equipment has been explained to them in a most basic sense and they’re not expected to do much more than meet a rubric.

    I have friends who work in the TSA. Their contempt for the travelers parallels the traveler’s frustrations with them; they hate being there, complain incessantly of the traveler’s ignorance of the rules and regulations (which we all know are subject to change and individual interpretation), and have a serious authority complex (might have something to do with the felt badges…)

    The one thing that’s clear and indisputable: there’s no model for efficiency, in fact, the prevailing attitude seems to be that efficiency decreases security.

  21. I’m the guy you all hate. I show up an hour before the hour before and go as slow as humanly possible through the dog and pony show. I just figure the more people I piss off about the process the more likely people will start complaining about it.

  22. “Small and portable electronic items do not need to be removed from their carrying cases.” from the TSA website right now.

    As per the website, I had to remove my camcorder in addition to the laptop when traveling via Atlanta on 1/9 and 1/19.

  23. For what it’s worth, I flew round trip from Seattle to Billings, Montana earlier in the month and didn’t have to pull out cables either time.

  24. @17 GIVEAPHUK.
    I fly around Australia and NZ all the time. I take on average three flights a week, and have done for four years now. I have NEVER had to do this.
    Do you look overly suspicious, or do I look like a completely innocent cherub?

  25. In case you didn’t know it, people in the airline industry refer to passengers as SLF, that the abbreviation for self-loading freight.

  26. I flew LAX-SEA on the 20th and back on the 27th. Laptop came out of the bag, other electronics and cables did not.

    And while #25 (looking at a page on the TSA website and finding that it says the opposite of what has been observed at airports) deserves a thumbs-up, somehow I doubt that showing a print-out of the webpage to the security people would make them go “Oh, yeah, sorry, you’re right, my bad. Go on through”.

  27. I’ve been traveling for business every week since April 2007, and have experienced a wide range of security checkpoint encounters.

    On one of my earliest trips, I recall going through my backpack after checking in at the hotel and finding my small folding utility knife; the kind with the removable angled blade. I ditched the blade right then and there, but held onto the handle, with the intention of leaving it at home when I got back. I passed through security on the way home without incident and completely forgot to take it out over the weekend and brought it back out into the field with me the next week. Someone finally caught it (an over-eager or just merely observant young TSA agent running the x-ray) on the flight home and I got pulled aside by another agent to have the bag hand-searched. She found the handle, and I explained the whole story of how it got in there, and me ditching the blade, and how it went through security three times already and no one caught it. She told me because I was so upfront about it, that she wouldn’t “write me up” (whatever that meant).

    I’ve gotten the lectures about using the quart size ziploc bags (I use a gallon size, bite me TSA!), and I’ve left it in my carry-on instead of placing it in a bin sometimes and gotten through the checkpoint without incident. I’ve gone through security at some airports wearing a belt with no problems and had to take it off at others. It’s really been a mixed bag. No consistency, really.

    I’ve been pulled aside for the super special pat downs and detailed searches where they use those felt paper wands and run it over everything I’ve got and then put it on some machine to check it for chemical residue. These kinds of checks only happen when I’ve rescheduled my flight mid-trip to either leave earlier or later than originally scheduled. You get a special “SSS” or something on your ticket (put there by the airline), which flags you for what I call the “skip-the-long-security-checkpoint-and-get-VIP-treatment”, which is actually pretty cool.

    Having to remove cables and electronics in addition to the laptop would just cause a longer checkpoint experience, but I don’t think it would be too bad for myself, because I keep all of my computer cables and stuff (including a small network switch) in one of those drawstring mesh camping bags and all my ipod gear in a smaller one. Everything is very modular in my bag, and it keeps it all organized to boot. It also helps that I travel light. The less crap, the less of a hassle to deal with it.

    However, every time I have to take off my shoes for the x-ray or ditch a bottle of water I’m reminded of those schmucks and the knee-jerk reactions of the fear industry that made it that much more of a hassle for your average Joe Citizen to make a living. Thanks a lot, dirtbags!

  28. Over the holidays in our flying we were asked to remove laptops and “video cameras” from our bags and place them in bins separate from the bag. Of course, these days, almost every digital camera and most telephones are technically video cameras, so maybe it was a case of someone dealing with uncertainty by covering their ass.

  29. Granted this was a while back, but apropos still. Someone a little ways a head of me had their peanut butter and jelly sandwich confiscated. I had visions of someone holding up their lunch and flicking a lighter underneath it. I was so glad to have been saved from the possible exploding jelly.

    I was soon after told by a ticket agent that earlier that same day an air marshal had had his toothpaste confiscated. But he was allowed on the plane with his gun. Again, a feeling of well being over took me, mostly because I knew that obviously people of imposing intelligence were running the show.

    Oh what a world it seems we live in….

  30. My boyfriend and I flew from LAX to JFK on 1/17 without incident. On the way home, on 1/21, however, was a completely different story. I hate to check a bag, so I was sure to comply with the one-quart zip-lock bag with only 3oz or less bottles in it. Upon arriving at the scanner, I did regulation everything – take shoes, coat, sweatshirt, scarf off and place in separate bins, portable compy in its own bin, all other electronics in my purse, backpack, or carryon. But as my carryon was about to go through, I realized that I’d forgotten to take the ziplock OUT of my carryon. So I took it out, and the lovely woman who saw me do this gruffly said, “well I can tell you right now, you can’t take these liquids through.” I asked her why, and she bitterly responded with, “Because they’re not labeled.” I proceeded to tell her that I’d flown with these bottles at least 10 times before and that the rules are simply 3oz or less. I’ve never read, heard, or seen anywhere that the bottle had to have a label.

    She didn’t seem to understand the rules, so she sent me to her manager who proceeded to explain to me that the bottles had to be labeled. I went through my same explanation. He sent me to his supervisor. He proceeded to also tell me that the bottles had to be labeled. Throughout this whole process, I tried to reason with them, which was to bring up the point that ONE of the bottles was labeled as being 3oz and the rest of the bottles were clearly smaller than that one. So why couldn’t they just make a rational, logical judgment that the rest of the bottles in there were less than 3oz? Upon bringing up the reason and logic point, he yelled, “My rules are my rules and the rules are ration and logic.” At which point I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere with trying to wax logical with him. I decided to check my bags before saying what I really wanted to say, which was, “So you mean to tell me that if the bottle was embossed with a 3oz label, that I could put anything I wanted in those bottles, like explosives, and they’d get through based on some arbitrary rule that there needs to be a label on there?”

    Meanwhile, I realized that my boyfriend, who opted to not take his liquids out of his carry on is standing next to me this whole time without incident and with his bags full of unlabeled liquids.

    While I was taking my bag to be checked, my boyfriend was waiting with the rest of our things and decided to take his camera out and take some photos. As he’s doing this, a TSA agent walks up to him and says, “Sir, I’d prefer if you didn’t take photos of the security line.” To which he said, “Is that some kind of rule? I don’t see any notices anywhere.” She looked at him with condescension, pointed to her felt badge and said, “These stripes right here… these are the rules, I make them up.”

    What an abuse of authority we have running our airports.

    Also: I checked the TSA website when I got home and could not find anything anywhere about a 3oz bottle having to be labeled.

  31. what if everybody insisted on smiling and laughing through the whole charade? They going to bust you for being happy?

  32. Does anyone actually still belives that the TSA has any common sense at all, is polite and effective in filtering weapons or explosives?

  33. Practically the whole contents of my carry-on bag are electronics! Haven’t had this happen to me, but I wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    #15 Even before the TSA era, Oakland had weird security. In 1999 I was walking through the airport, and a roving “random check” crew flagged me for a wanding. Their equipment must have been way, way turned up, because I ended up having to take off my shirt (in the middle of the terminal) to show them that my nipple piercing was not a concealed weapon. And they had the TSA “I live in my own reality” mentality down pat.

  34. I am so glad I don’t need to fly on a regular basis. Most of the Septemer Eleventh inspired rules simply do no good and end up causing everyone to become appathetic to the system.

  35. Sounds like a basic summary is the rules are not consistently applied across the U.S. and that the actions of TSA screeners aren’t always in line with the regulations that appear on the TSA web site.

    I wonder if anyone has tried printing out a copy of the regulations from the web site and shown them to a screener when they conflict?

    Not that I expect it to help. It really seems that if you want to actually get on the plane you need to shut up, keep your head down, and do whatever the TSA says.

  36. I don’t know about cables, but every time I fly from Baltimore or LAX, I have to take out the electronics. I just take out the larger pieces (the ebook and laptop) and don’t bother taking out the cables.

    However, normally I leave my diabetic supplies (in a plastic ziploc) inside. Only once at LAX did they do a handsearch of my bag because of that. All other times they couldn’t care less.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is… TSA is inconsistent at best.

  37. I fly to and from the EU on a fairly regular basis. Because I perform laptop music I try to make my kit as compact and accessible as possible.

    All my cables, adapters, audio cards, controllers, etc. pretty much fit into my carry-on backpack and a plastic snap lid box in my checked baggage.

    It’s the chaotic dance of shoes off, jacket off, belt off, coins out, cellphone out, laptop out, electronics out and having about $5k worth of goodies sailing into the maw of xray hell only to wonder if someone snatched it and took off on the other end while you wait for the lady with the baby in a stroller, diaper bag and carry-on struggling in front of you. (I don’t know how women traveling with kinders do it. They need some sort of award for this!) And then having to reassemble one’s person on the other side of the energy portal while taking inventory on all said items.

    The other thing you realize straight away when being ‘processed’ by the TSA is that the people hired to the TSA teams are not the brightest bulbs on the xmas tree – if you catch my drift.

    That being said they make up for this lack of general intelligence with a ironclad adherence to self appointed (albeit misguided) authority. Reich called it ‘little man syndrome.’ The thing to realize is that you can’t win against this so trying to outsmart them is useless and only leads to them going further out on the irrational axis and enforcing even more absurd ‘rules’ with sadistic pleasure. Not good for your serenity.

    Travel Tip1: remain silent and adopt a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look when asked or commanded to do something.

    Travel Tip2: adapt or die.

    Safe travels!

  38. I flew out of BOS (to Europa) on Jan 3rd and a TSA boy was yelling at the line over and over: “take all electronic devices that are bigger than your hand out of your bags”. along with some other things that made me and the lady from New York laugh a concealed laugh for fear of being arrested over ridiculing an Agent of the TSA…

    So I put my portable audio recorder into a bin, set it to record the whole spiel and let it wander through the x-ray machine…

    Some of the TSA-slam-poetry the boy was still letting loose on the crowd was actually recorded…


  39. Perhaps they have better bomb sniffing equipment now, and it requires moving things around to generate increased vapor pressure for the sniffers to work. Just a random thought.

  40. I’m a little surprised that no political candidate has openly addressed the fact that the TSA represents what both parties hate the most; invasive governement bureaucracy run by detached idiots who’ve employed poor hapless nitwits that now have power to mess with people. I mean, really, Pol Pot could get elected in this country if they only promised promised to shut that monster down AND that everyone who wanted to, could kick a TSA agent in the nuts as payback.

  41. My one and only encounter with TSA was when my wife and I were waiting to board a short-haul flight from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis.

    The droids came into the area and looked over the crowd of us waiting to board, pointed to the guy dressed in black (me) and asked to submit to a wanding.

    The first pass…BLEEEEEP. Remove all change from pockets.
    Second pass…BLEEEEEP. Remove belt.
    Third pass…BLEEEEEP. WTF? Nothing metallic left to remove, except for the zipper on my pants.

    Then, one of the droids got the bright idea that, maybe, we should move away from the big METAL table they were using.

    Fourth pass…all clear.

  42. I’ve flown back and forth from Dulles to SFO during the past month and have not had this experience. My laptop needed to be separate, as per usual, but my digital camera, PSP, and cellphone (and various extra batteries, recharge cables, etc) all went through the belt in my backpack together and in their own cases with no hassle.
    I think it’s painfully obvious at this point that the system is not a system, but an arbitrary bunch of loosely related rules that change from agent to agent, hour to hour, and airport to airport. Most of the time, I readily admit, the TSA agents do a fantastic job. But there are periodically agents who are bullies and/or simply do not actually know the rules or have the proper training.
    Ways to fix the problems noted here and in many other postings are through better (and ongoing/regularly updated) training, public postings at the security gates of ALL carry-on rules, and the establishment of a TSA board to field complaints from travelers and deal out real consequences for agents and airports who abuse passengers.
    I’d love to see other suggestions as well as ideas about what congresspeople and senators would be most likely to embrace these ideas and create/sponsor an appropriate bill.

  43. Not quite on the same level as some of the other stories here, but a few years back I was moving back home (overseas) for a few months between college and grad school, my pet gerbils in tow, and I got a TSA agent who was apparently scared of rodents. At least, she didn’t want to put her hands into their clear carrying container and riffle through the litter, I guess to see if I was using them as drug mules or whatnot. She proposed I carry one in each hand and step through the gateway while I sent their carrier through the x-ray machine.

    Yes, that’s right. Carry one squirming, terrified, confused, capable-of-outrunning-cats rodent in each hand in a wide open space full of hundreds of safety hazards for tiny hopping mammals … while simultaneously trying to navigate all the rest of my possessions through the security checkpoint. Without hands. Because, lest anyone forget, I’m carrying two squirming gerbils.

    Luckily, I convinced her that this really wasn’t going to work, and she sucked it up, but jeez, lady, you’re wearing gloves.

  44. Whenever I’ve flown recently, I’ve heard the “laptops out of bags” order. However, no scanner operator has ever yet ordered my bag to be opened up when their instruments revealed it to contain: a digital SLR, a compact point-and-shoot, iPod, chargers for each, cables for each, spare batteries for the cameras, and a monopod and ball-head (my usual load on international flights; on domestic, add a PDA and a cellphone plus more chargers).

    Obviously, I’m not an international terrorist (if I was, I might know how you can bring down an aircraft with 101ml of shampoo and the War on Moisture might make some kind of sense to me). Nevertheless, I’d think that whatever mayhem you can wreak with a laptop could also be accomplished with some of the several pounds of electronic kit that I routinely haul around with me.

    Not that I’m asking the TSA to make me take any more out of my bags than they do already. I’m just suggesting that their rules might be a little arbitrary.

    Of course the last thing that we want is for them to be less arbitrary, because if they take the “We must defend against all imaginable and some unimaginable threats” principle to its illogical conclusion, it’ll be cavity searches all round before being loaded onto the plane naked and handcuffed. Assuming your name is even on the May-Fly List, of course.

    The basic problem with the TSA from the traveler’s point of view, and the reason why no protests will ever cause a reversal of any policy they choose to mandate (or invent on the spur of the moment) can be summed up as follows: they’ve got all day. You haven’t.

  45. Yeah, I’m surprised you guys didn’t know that. I carried my new iMac on board from Boston to Pittsburgh and I had to remove it from the case. There was no trouble though, the longest part of the inspection was when they had to call the head supervisor over to gawk at my computer. He told me he wants to switch to a Mac.

  46. I was traveling with my wife recently and actually showed the wrong boarding pass (I gave the TSA agent my wife’s boarding pass for the next leg on our flight) instead of mine. The ID checker looked at my ID, looked at the boarding pass, scribbled on it, and sent us along, no questions asked. I didn’t even realize I had the wrong one until after.

  47. It’s all for a simple, logical, reason – they want to turn you into good germans. The thing I don’t get is how the country that sent us packing for taking the piss out of them, allows these jumped-up little shits that think having a badge turns them into God, to get away with it.

  48. I was pleasantly surprised recently when departing from FLL. The TSA “liquid checker” at the head of the queue was handing out quart bags for those who didn’t have one.

    Such a small gesture of common sense made the rest of the nonsense somewhat more bearable.

  49. At Thanksgiving, everyone had to take all electronic devices out of their bags (including DVD/MP3 players, which we’d never had to remove before), but not the cables. This happened at both National and Austin Bergstrom airports, so I figured it was a new “thing”, but people who flew the same days at other airports didn’t report it.

    On the other hand, having just taken an X-Ray training, I sort of understand. EVERYTHING looks like a bomb. You go through their training packages, and you go, yeah, ok, that’s a gun, that’s an explosive, those are knives, that’s stuff packed around an IED for shrapnel, that’s an explosive wired to the handles of the briefcase, blah blah blah. Then you scan some actual packages that actually came in through UPS or whatever, and they look EXACTLY THE SAME. Since I’m pretty sure we’re not receiving bombs in every package on a daily basis (the warehouse handles computer equipment, mostly), I’ve lost all faith in the ability of x-ray to protect us from anything. (Ok, maybe some guns, ’cause they’re pretty distinctive, but at the rate they go, I’m not surprised they miss so many.)

  50. It’s so frustrating not knowing what the rules are. On one flight, the DVD player in the backpack was fine, the return flight, we got a scolding for not taking it out. I suspect some of that was the boredom of working at ABQ.

  51. I learned to knit recently. On the way home, I wasn’t planning to knit on the plane, so I had the needles (bamboo) in checked luggage.

    On the way back I wanted to knit on the plane, so I checked out the TSA regulations on knitting needles. There’s some helpful guidance, but this sentence caught my eye particularly:

    Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage. However, there is a possibility that the needles can be perceived as a possible weapon by one of our Security Officers. Our Security Officers have the authority to determine if an item could be used as a weapon and may not allow said item to pass through security.

    So basically, you can bring them unless they say you can’t. They even recommend you bring an envelope to mail them to yourself “just in case.” The TSA doesn’t even pretend to be a system when you look closely. It’s whatever the Security Officer thinks. It’s always arbitrary. If you want to fly, your rights don’t exist.

    I did get through with the knitting needles, of course, without any problem. But why did I even have to worry about it?

  52. I just flew Indy wash–beckley Wva and back tue thru thu with lots of electronics and cables and wasnt asked to remove anything.


  53. Just to provide some perspective: London Heathrow (one of the busiest international airports in the world) has now stopped asking people to pull laptops out of their bags. You can just put your back straight through with the laptop inside. (You still have to pull out toiletries and send it through separately.) At some point, you have to ask yourself: do all the extra security steps really make you safer, or is it “security theater?”

  54. Just flew SFO to LAX last night (United) and didn’t have to do this. Definitely doesn’t seem to be a new blanket policy… yet.

  55. @ #50 – had that exact thing happen to me – TSA goon held her hand out for my papers while talking to someone next to her, looked the papers up and down – the ticket matched the passport, as they were both my wife’s – and handed them back to me without looking up at my face.

    flew out of Newark with no issues – laptop out, cables, pda, phone in my bag.

    on the way back out of Milwaukee, goon stops to open my bag – “sir, are you aware of the Clear Plastic Zippered Bag ™ policy?” (to be fair, they had boxes of ziploc bags for you to use) While telling me all about how all liquids need to be in a zippered, quart-sized, clear plastic bag, he proceeds to open my clear, plastic, ZIPPERED bag, to put SOME of the contents into the baggie. Solid (crystal) deodorant – into the bag. Gel-like putty (like Silly Putty) that I use to exercise my hand (but could be anything)? That’s OK.

    I told him I few out of NY without a problem. He said, “New York is a very busy airport – they don’t take security as seriously as we do here (in Milwaukee).”

    You wanna know why you have to put your liquids into a plastic bag? So, when the pressure changes on the plane, your bottles don’t pop and leak and drip onto your fellow passengers.

  56. No, this is not a requirement. They want you to take all large portable electronics out, not random little things. I flew from ATL to LGA yesterday night… nothing different from the ordinary.

  57. Also: during the whole situation at JFK (post #33), I was told that different airports have different regulations, to which I said, “Isn’t this a FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY? Should the rules be blanket across the whole country?” I was met with a blank stare followed by, “Ma’am, you can surrender the liquids or check your bags.”

    When I checked my bag at the Virgin American counter, I asked the very nice, polite, respectful young ladies whether they’d ever heard a rule about bottle having to be LABELED 3oz. They looked at each other rolled their eyes and said, “I have no idea why those rules even exist. They do nothing to make flying safer. But no, I’ve never heard about a bottle having to be labeled 3oz.”

  58. This is not actually a TSA requirement at all airports. TSA is currently piloting the removal of all electronics at several airports. If it plugs in or takes a battery, it comes out of the bag.

    Bags are often chocked full of every gadget imaginable with all of the cables and batteries that go with them. When a bag like this is viewed on the X-ray monitor, it’s so cluttered we have no choice but to search it. We’ve found when all electronics are removed; we get a much cleaner picture and are usually able to clear the bag without a search.

    The lines aren’t as long if we’re not searching bags, but the extra prep time for passengers removing electronics takes some extra time. So, the decision was made to pilot the program to see what it does to the screening process.

    Please visit the TSA’s new Evolution of Security Blog at

    Evolution Blog Team

  59. In January, they appeared to be doing this at terminal two at Cincinnati airport, but not at terminal three. People who use terminal two are more dangerous.

    (Do not ask me why I ended up going through two different terminals’ security checkpoints. It was deeply inexplicable.)

  60. They were doing this at Boston Logan and Columbus OH last time I went through. All electronics had to come out. Plus the woman behind me had to dump all the ice out of her thermos.

  61. Snarp — Cincinnati’s Terminal 2 was a pilot location. The other checkpoints did not participate in this pilot.

    Also, a new checkpoint is being built that will open in 2009. (I think) Once that checkpoint opens, it will be the only checkpoint (besides the Federal Inspection Station) and will give access to all terminals. This has been an inconvenience for passengers and it will be a good fix once it’s done.


    Evolution Blog Team

  62. I think the inconsistency is a strategy: keep people off guard. I can testify to the pervy Oakland policy though. I had to strip off a sweater I was over a cami and the cami was the bra type, not a tank top meant to be worn alone. I pleaded with them that it was underwear, not a shirt. No dice, girlie. Off with it. Nice.

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