Federalism

Idiot Tested, Not TSA Approved

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Several years too late, the Transportation Security Administration is simplifying the lives of travelers by approving the use of X-ray-friendly laptop cases. According to the New York Times:

Two problems with the existing laptop cases are that security officers have difficulty seeing inside them with X-ray equipment, and many of the cases are so crammed with extra gear — power cords, a mouse and the like — that the computer is obscured.

To solve these problems, Ron Davis from Pathfinder Luggage says that the company's cases will be made of "nylon and foam," because "the X-ray machine will see right through that."

As it happens, I've been using an Incase Neoprene Sleeve to hold my MacBook for more than two years now. I know that it's X-ray friendly because, A) it holds only my computer and no other accessories, B) Neoprene is a type of foam; and C) the last several times I've flown, I neglected to remove my laptop from its case on the conveyer belt, and not once did a TSA employee ask me to take it out and send it back in. Why? Because the case didn't obstruct the views on the monitor.

Yet the TSA is refusing to set up an approval process, or a list of minimum technical specs, because X-rayable features on laptop cases should be "self evident." As a result, companies cannot "state nor imply that the bags were certified or approved by the T.S.A. or use a T.S.A. logo on them," and customers will have to hope they guessed right before placing their zipped computer on the belt.

It will be immediately apparent if a laptop case is not properly designed for unobscured visual inspection because it will not give security officers a clear X-ray image, Mr. Hawley said. The case and laptop will be removed from the belt for a close look by security officers, he said.

The recap: The current TSA policy is to let no one send his laptop through the X-ray machine while still inside its case. The new TSA policy entails encouraging manufacturers to come up with new cases, which the administration can't and won't endorse. It will then test those cases by letting all passengers send their encased laptops through the conveyer belt, whether they own a new one or not (because not even TSA employees will be able to tell the difference), then removing all the ones whose contents are obscured. Fantastic policy, and fantastically late.

Editor Jacob Sullum wrote here about the TSA's nipple checking policy.

NEXT: A Hollow Victory?

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  1. TSA = Teh Stupid Administration.

  2. The TSA is just a make work program for idiots with no security training or any real employable qualifications.

    That is all. No further comments necessary.

  3. MacBook

    Oh, you are one of those people. Do you use emacs too?

    j/k 🙂

  4. More improvement from the people who brought you Security Kabuki. Man, I’m glad I haven’t had to go anywhere recently.

  5. There are three basic threats to a civilian aircraft:

    1)Hijacking the plane, using the passengers as hostages.
    2) Hijacking the plane, using the plane as a weapon.
    3) Blowing up the plane.

    The first two are no longer possible — that window closed on 9/11. Neither passengers nor crew will participate in either situations 1 or 2, since it has become clear how that can end. And the reinforced cockpit doors really killed any plans of getting your own pilots in there. (If you want to crash a giant plane into anything now, you need to be the actual pilot).

    The third is pretty difficult to actually pull off, given even minor scrutiny of bags and making sure they belong to actual passengers.

    And it’s not…terrifying enough….after 9/11 to be really worth the time.

    Nonethless, with all the money, requirements, and demands thrown at TSA, at Homeland Security (god I hate that name), and every other related organization — they have to damn well find something to do.

    Which is, I suppose, a lesson in trying to revamp procedures and rules while in the throes of fear. You do stupid stuff, but then don’t want to undo it because if something happens later, you’ll be blamed.

  6. If you live in the northern U.S., and want to travel internationally, just drive across the border and fly out of Canada. As long as you don’t catch a connecting flight through the U.S., it is very pleasant.

    If you live in the south, maybe you can fly out of Mexico or something? I don’t know how that works.

    1. Rex, forget Mexico! Americans take their lives in their hands just traveling to this viloent location.

  7. “As it happens, I’ve been using an Incase Neoprene Sleeve to hold my MacBook for more than two years now.”

    I don’t like any computer where the mouse has only one one button to click. But that is just me – I am not an anti-mac bigot – as long as you don’t flaunt your Mac in public we can coexist in peace.

  8. Thinkpad User,

    I miss the three-button mice from real computers.

  9. What makes a laptop special anyway? If there’s something dangerous that can be obscured by a mouse and power supply, then I can use that same mouse and power supply to obscure it in my suitcase or backpack. Yeah, I can stuff C4 inside it, but I can also stuff C4 in my camera, but the TSA goons never tell me to remove my camera and place it in a bukkit all by itself.

    I bet 75% of all TSA restrictions exist only to blatantly assert droit de seigneur over your ass.

  10. I bet 75% of all TSA restrictions exist only to blatantly assert droit de seigneur over your ass.

    What was your first clue? Removing your shoes or the 3 oz of liquid rule?

  11. I fly several times a month and God, I hate the TSAr. I try not to take it out on the poor saps operating the checkpoints. They are, after all, just doing their jobs (said with a Teutonic accent).

    I fly only with carry-ons. Usually I get pulled over for my telescoping tripods. Last time was for a small stone Buddha statue that apparently looked suspicious to somebody. I had to dig it out of my bag and let them x-ray it again, maybe to check for hidden heroin. (They didn’t find it.)
    I sure miss my pocketknife.

  12. It could be worse. The TSA could start a requirement that only “TSA Approved” laptop cases could be brought through checkpoints.

    I prefer incompetent, idiotic, benign policy to incompetent, idiotic, intrusive policy.

  13. a make work program for idiots with no security training or any real employable qualifications

    Clearly the left does not have a monopoly on elitism.
    It’s possible to criticize the agency without childishly insulting its employees.

  14. Sorry frowny face – how’s this:

    a make work program for people with no security training or any real employable qualifications

  15. :-/ is a poopypants

  16. I though we were all upfront about our elitism around here. Or is that just me?

  17. What was your first clue? Removing your shoes or the 3 oz of liquid rule?

    Perhaps it was the time they confiscated my mini swiss army knife, the one with a 2/3 inch blade that would snap if I tried to trim my cuticles with it. Or perhaps it’s my luggage padlock, that has “TSA” embossed on it. Or perhaps it was the first time I flew post-9/11. After I got to my destination, I opened my luggage to find a note that said, paraphrased, “We rummaged through your underwear. You’ll be happy to know that you’re not a terrorist.”

    It’s possible to criticize the agency without childishly insulting its employees.

    Yes it is, but we’re talking about the TSA here. I swear they have the lowest employment standards anywhere.

  18. What was your first clue? Removing your shoes or the 3 oz of liquid rule?

    Perhaps it was the time they confiscated my mini swiss army knife, the one with a 2/3 inch blade that would snap if I tried to trim my cuticles with it. Or perhaps it’s my luggage padlock, that has “TSA” embossed on it. Or perhaps it was the first time I flew post-9/11. After I got to my destination, I opened my luggage to find a note that said, paraphrased, “We rummaged through your underwear. You’ll be happy to know that you’re not a terrorist.”

    It’s possible to criticize the agency without childishly insulting its employees.

    Yes it is, but we’re talking about the TSA here. I swear they have the lowest employment standards anywhere.

  19. “mike | July 2, 2008, 3:33pm | #
    Sorry frowny face – how’s this:

    a make work program for people with no security training or any real employable qualifications”

    If you include jobs that were farmed out to China and India among lack of qualifications, then steel-workers and IT persons might be included, along with retired fire and police
    The real issue would be our management coming directly from the airlines (we know how abysmal their business model has been), so I see a train wreck (pardon the metaphor) on the horizon before all is said and done

  20. MacBook

    Oh, you are one of those people. Do you use emacs too?

    Ohhh! I do. And LaTeX.

    Almost everything I do is LaTeX written in emacs on my powerbook.

    Whether this is good, bad, or cause for involentary commitment is left as an exercise for the student…

    I miss the three-button mice from real computers.

    Now this I sympathize with. I’ve used so many macs over the years that I chord the(!) mouse button with the shifting keys by instinct, but come on, Apple. Everything accessible with one button so a new or inexpert user does not have to be confused yes, but make some allowances for the rest of us…

  21. “Clearly the left does not have a monopoly on elitism.It’s possible to criticize the agency without childishly insulting its employees.”

    It is the employees who enable that agency to exist. If no one worked for that agency it would not be able to function. I would prefer that.

  22. To Guy Montag:

    “I miss the three-button mice from real computers.

    Try this:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0002Y5LZ8/reasonmagazinea-20/

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