TSA: X-ray of MacBook Air may be "sensitive security information"

Phil sez,

After hearing stories of trouble at airport security checkpoints related to Apple's newest laptop, TSA acquired one and x-rayed it. The TSA's "Blogger Bob" summarized that because the MacBook Air uses a solid state drive instead of a traditional hard drive, its internals look entirely different than any other laptop.

He also says that he cannot show the image of the x-ray of this laptop because that is sensitive information.

I'd love to see some rebellious x-ray technician pick up the slack and show us all what's so special.

In the followup comments, "Bob" says that he isn't sure if an X-ray of a MacBook Air would breach national security, but that someone would come along shortly to determine whether it is or isn't. Link (Thanks, Phil!)

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  1. I, probably like a lot of geeks like to check out those screens when I can. And I can imagine if someone had access to a machine they could mess around until they got whatever they meant to sneak on to pass as an ok object. I’d assume that the reason they don’t want to publish pictures of what it looks like is because essentially they don’t want to publish “make it look like this and you can fool us” information.

  2. Hey, TSA got mentioned in BoingBoing *without* having to kill anyone. That must count as a good week for them!

  3. @wirelizard

    Around here, the week ends on Saturday night. They’ve still got some time to kill ;)

  4. I remember back in the early 90s I had a camcorder with a (for back then) oddly-shaped form factor and a mini tripod all bundled up in a camera bag. As it was going through the old-school x-ray scanner at Logan I was standing right there the operator watching with curiosity what it would look like.

    When my camera came by on the screen we both looked at it and looked at each other and I said, “that sure does look like a ray gun, doesn’t it?”

    Because it did. Like some big ol’ Marvin the Martian death-ray blaster. He just chuckled and let me take my camera bag and go on my way.

  5. When I was a kid, I used to ask if I could watch our things go through the metal detector. They would almost always say yes. My parents would put me through the metal detector first, and the security people (Were they using TSA in the early 90’s?) would take me around the back, and let me watch. They would show me the different buttons, and tell me how it worked. It was one of the highlights of travel, second to going into the cockpit and meeting the pilots and seeing the display panels. I even got to sit in the captain’s seat once.

    Too bad this can never happen when I have kids…

  6. Is it something related to Apple products or is the TSA just generally behind on being aware of new technology? I remember when I had my 1st generation iPod that I eventually just gave up taking it with me on flights until airport security became more familiar with them. I just got held up too many times and had to answer too many questions about what it was and did, etc.

    It does make one wonder if there are terrorists out there that have access to the best in technology how well equipped the TSA is to identify and detect items of concern.

  7. As said above, there are other laptops that pre-date the MacBook Air with solid state drive options. Have any of these been flagged? I’m specifically thinking of various industrial laptops that look very different from consumer models and that have various odd features like solid state drives, armoured housings and external antennas.

  8. My guess is that they are worried that some terrorist would make a bomb that mimicked the internals of an AirBook… which is patently absurd IMHO.

  9. #8..

    Take a small plane from a local airport. It’s like a trip back to the past.

    Last summer when we flew from Hyanis to Nantucket they stuck my wife in the co-pilot’s seat because all the other seats were full! The pilot answered every question the 6ish year old boy sitting behind him asked (and the questions didn’t stop until his parents dragged him away to walk into the terminal).

    Other than a few new concrete barriers in front of the airport, it’s been exactly the same trip for decades.

  10. Maybe the lack of characterizing features (SS drive with no platter) that most laptops have as well as that big flat battery on the bottom raised suspicions. Still silly.

    I alway leave my Mac on sleep when I send it though the xray so the TSA doesn’t have to stretch their mind to turn it on (just open the lid) and their time to wait for it to boot and shut down.

  11. When I was a kid, I used to ask if I could watch our things go through the metal detector. They would almost always say yes. My parents would put me through the metal detector first, and the security people (Were they using TSA in the early 90's?) would take me around the back, and let me watch. They would show me the different buttons, and tell me how it worked. It was one of the highlights of travel, second to going into the cockpit and meeting the pilots and seeing the display panels. I even got to sit in the captain's seat once.
    
    Too bad this can never happen when I have kids...

    ——

    Not gone. I took 4 of my (6!) kids into the control tower of the Oakland, CA Airport just last year, simply by asking, without any advance warning.

    I sat in the copilot seat of a Southwest Airlines airliner less than 2 months ago, after a flight. There’s a clear charade done at major airports regarding your shoes and whatnot, but once you get “outside” that charade, you realize that things are not much different than they’ve always been.

    People are people.

    (put your shoes into the plastic tray!)

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