TSA Plan to Check Books and Other Items in Carry-on Bags

TSA Plan to Check Books and Other Items in Carry-on Bags

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(Updated, 10:00 a.m., PDT, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.)

At the beginning of this month, Tales Told From The Road reported “that at ten U.S. airports TSA was testing a requirement that electronic devices larger than a smartphone be removed from carry-on bags.”

News outlets, including The Hill, are reporting that the agency now wants to look at books and reading material in passenger carry-on luggage, stating that:

“TSA began testing the new security requirement for books and other paper products at airports in Missouri and California earlier this month. The new screening process requires passengers to remove all reading material and food from their carry-ons and place them in a bin.

“Travelers already have to remove laptops from carry-on bags and place them in a separate bin. The new policy would let TSA employees flip through books to see if anything is hidden in their pages.”

The American Civil Liberties pointed out that the book-checking policy “raises very special privacy issues.” But the organization agreed that TSA could be justified examining books or other paper materials to make sure that a passenger isn’t trying to bring aboard a flight weapons or explosives, including “sheet explosives” which are flat enough to be hidden within a stack of papers or photographs.

Three months ago, Travel + Leisure reported that TSA was, at times, having passengers remove books from carry-on luggage, examining them for hidden weapons or narcotics, and even swabbing the books down.

In a story dated Wednesday, June 28, 2017, about TSA testing new technologies, including 3D scanning of carry-on luggage, The New York Times TSA spokesman, Mike England, who stated that: “At no time has the removal of books been T.S.A. policy, nor are we considering making it policy.”

However, the Times then pointed out that:

“..Mr. England did say that T.S.A. employees may occasionally ask travelers to declutter their carry-ons by removing items from them and placing these items into separate bins so that the bags are easier to screen.”

Presumably that qualifying remark means that TSA could ask passengers to remove books from carry-on bags, if necessary, to allow the bags to be properly screened

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