TSA tells UK airport security: confiscate broken and out-of-battery gadgets

The TSA has demanded that overseas airports, like London's Heathrow, should require travellers to turn on their electronics before flying to the USA, and ban any broken or out-of-power devices.

The announcement is apparently linked to Syrian and Yemeni bomb-makers believing that they can blow up airplanes with fake electronics. It's not clear from the announcement whether broken and/or out-of-power devices will be allowed in checked bags.

It's also not clear what "turning on" a device consists of. Will making the LED on a 2lb, external USB charger glow suffice? If so, how can they be sure that most of the volume of the device isn't contraband, with a tiny portion given over to a button cell and a LED light the size of a grain of rice?

It's easy to predict the ways that the War on Broken Electronics will screw stuff up. Holidays and battery-discharge go together like peanut butter and chocolate. How many parents use screens as a last-ditch measure to keep their kids from freaking out on the long voyage home, and how many kids will fail at managing their power consumption and keeping an eye on the battery on their game, tablet or phone during a delay, only to face having their property confiscated at the checkpoint?

And of course, travel affords lots of exciting opportunities to break your beloved electronic crap, from spills to drops. And what steps will airport security take to safeguard the data on travellers' devices? When you are forced to surrender the laptop or tablet or phone full of confidential employer data, trade secrets, personal photos, banking records, and photos of your kids in the bath, how will the G4S contractors at Heathrow assure you that these won't be used to rob you blind, get you fired, and embarrass and humiliate you?

In other words, this is a plan that bans flat batteries and broken screens at the place where they are most likely to occur, and singles out for punishment people who are already in extremis from tired kids and broken stuff. Visitors to America should be prepared for very, very long lines at security checkpoints as aghast and outraged travellers argue over the official theft of their valuable stuff.

US enhanced airport security checks target electronics

(Image: Broken Blackberry, Matthew Hurst, CC BY-SA)