The TSA Is Expected To Introduce New Screening Policies Later This Year

Filed Under: Security/TSA

Over the past couple of months we’ve seen an electronics ban implemented for flights from select Middle Eastern airports to the US, and it’s possible that this may eventually be expanded to flights from Europe (though it has been postponed for the time being).

It looks like we may also soon see some changes to security screening procedures in the US as well. Scott McCartney at The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the TSA plans on introducing new security screening guidelines at checkpoints later this year, as they’ll be asking passengers to remove more items from their bags. As it stands, with the exception of those using TSA Pre-Check lanes, passengers are asked to remove laptops and liquids from their bags.

Technically this isn’t compulsory, in the sense that you can leave those items in your bag, though your bag is likely to be pulled aside and manually searched if you do.

While the exact new policies haven’t yet been decided, the TSA wants passengers to declutter their bags, as they’ll be asking passengers to take more things out of their bags and place them into individual bins. The idea is that many items can look confusing on the x-ray (some food items can apparently look like explosives due to their density), so they’d rather have more individual bins go through with clearer images.

New procedures, such as requiring all food or all electronics larger than cellphones be placed in bins separately, are still being tested. Changes haven’t yet been finalized, but senior Transportation Security Administration officials agreed to discuss them publicly for the first time. Decisions will be made in a few weeks, with new rules implemented after the summer travel rush, once screeners are trained and announcements made.

“It has to be efficient and it has to be effective,” says Darby LaJoye, assistant administrator for security operations. “We are far enough along that I am very optimistic that what we are piloting is working.”

The TSA has been running tests regarding this at smaller airports. For example, a while ago there were reports that passengers were being asked to remove paper from their bags at select airports, though that test was canceled.

The story suggests that the requirements to remove things from bags could change airport by airport or line by line, which just seems to me like a recipe for disaster. People are confused enough by TSA procedures as it is, so can you imagine how bad it would be if policies varied by day and airport.

The story also suggests that TSA agents will stop manually checking IDs, but rather they’ll have machines that can verify whether IDs are real. The story also suggests that boarding passes won’t be required anymore, though I highly doubt that will be the case when this is implemented nationwide (though it would be awesome).

Another change starting to roll out: TSA will begin using machines to verify ID instead of officers manually studying passports and driver’s licenses. The ID verification machine testing will start at Washington Dulles Airport later this month, then spread to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Austin, Texas and Washington Reagan Airport. Full rollout should take about two years.

The machine checks for fake IDs and matches up names with passenger lists—no boarding pass will be needed at the TSA checkpoints when the machine is in use. Officers can still clear someone manually if a false alarm is triggered.

Bottom line

In general I’m all for change at the TSA. They’re highly ineffective, and in tests have missed over 95% of explosives and weapons, which is alarming. Despite that, nothing has been done to address their shortcomings. While I appreciate screening changes that increase security, I’m not sure what exactly this accomplishes, at least as described.

Randomly instituting restrictions at different airports seems like it will add confusion and considerably increase the amount of time it takes to clear security.

I guess we’ll find out the full details of this soon.

What do you make of the TSA’s proposed idea to have passengers declutter their bags?

  1. the Transportation Security Administration: Replacing onerous and useless security measures with more onerous and useless security measures since 2002.

  2. I was at Lubbock airport about five weeks ago and they only offer partial PreCheck. To my surprise they were making passengers take any electronic larger than a smartphone AND “snack items” out of their bags and put them in trays. One passenger had his PopTarts undergo additional screening and another had all of his protein bars individually inspected. Heard of this happening much?

  3. Curious where you got your “highly ineffective” and missed over 95% statistic from.

    As a pilot for a major airline I am all for increased security measures.

    Perhaps similar to the laptop ban, might want to try a little faith in the system and perhaps they have some intel that you are not privy to and for good reason. The traveling public does not have a right to know everything. Although everyone on here believes they do. Security measures are for security. If it inconviences you sorry but you will get there eventually. Don’t like it? Try driving across the ocean sometime.

  4. Flew out of BOS this morning. Took PreCheck lite out of Terminal B. TSA wasn’t telling people that tablets/Kindles/etc needed to be removed and screened separately. It was an absolute mess.

  5. For those of us who mostly travel internationally, this won’t make much difference: we’re used to every airport having different rules.

    I’ve been variously shouted at for putting a cabin bag in a tray on the conveyor belt, and for *not* putting a cabin bag in a tray. Ditto shoes.

    I was shouted at by a TSA operative that iPads *must* (note that imperative) stay in cabin bags and made to repack mine before the machine, then had that bag pulled to be told that iPads which have a keyboard should *always* be taken out of cabin bags.

    I’ve carefully opened my iPad and keyboard before putting it in a tray, only to have the pre-machine goon close it; and, yes, the iPad was then pulled and tested for explosives because iPads with keyboards must *always* be presented with them open…

    Earlier this month, for no reason that I can figure, TSA decided that I had been “pre-screened” and, therefore, could keep my shoes on through the machines.

    The whole thing is a mish-mash of different rules, (in)differently applied.

    Related, a scrupulously polite officer at LHR gave me a full rub-down in public last month; before he moved his hands on to each part of the massage he told me which bit of my body he’d be groping next. I explained I’d flown so often that I had no dignity left, and that he was welcome just to get on with doing his job without the commentary. He smiled, and told me some people get angsty when they’re being touched-up in public. Frankly, I found the description of the act even more disturbing than the security theatre – it was like intimate dirty talk.

  6. Security theater gone mad.

    This is just an excuse to justify higher TSA employment, get more people off the welfare rolls and “MAGA” in the name of national security.

    9/11 was the best thing to happen to this circus in the history of the US.

  7. @James @Donna If they had any additional intel, we would have heard about it by now. We have all the best intel.

  8. @James, I’m actually a security expert with over 30 years in the field and have worked on high-risk assessment projects. I can tell you the current measures are in place to:

    1) Maximize revenue for the companies hawking the scanning equipment
    2) Create a feedback loop that justifies its existence (aka ‘don’t ask, if we told you it’d compromise security.)

    It is all security theatre. The statistic comes from highly credible independent reviews. The public absolutely has a right to know- it’s their tax dollars.

  9. Airports already seem to take their own stances on pre-check some laptops and electronics are fine as well as with jackets. Other airports all electronics out of bag in desperate bin even with precheck and jackets off.

  10. I’ll also follow up with Paul- the TSA can’t even figure out its own arbitrary rules. I travel with an iPad Pro and even in 2017 there’s zero consistency to how it is screened (in bag, out of bag, out of case, in case, etc.). Mind you they’re still not sure how to handle a now 7 year old device form factor- is it no wonder they have a 95% failure rate.

    I seriously can’t believe how sloppy they are with their screening procedures. Contrast this to an actual professional security organization at a high-risk facility and it’s staggering.

  11. @Alpha cite these highly credible independent reviews then please.

    Interesting how I am privy to certain airline specific security details that the traveling public is not aware of just as I am sure you have certain security specific details that I am not aware of.

    A security expert paints a broad brush. There are many areas. I am sure you are an expert in some but not all. I cliam no expertise in any.

  12. Great this will give the TSA clerks more reason to bark loudly at passengers:

    One day: “DO NOT take your food out of the bag”

    Another day: “DO take food out of the bag – why didn’t you take it out?”

    TSA = Thousands Standing Around

  13. I wonder how much large amounts of cash and drugs are intercepted in the screenings ?

  14. As another airline employee, I, too, don’t like the generalization that the TSA is “highly ineffective”, Lucky. If the measure is terrorist acts on aircraft, then there is nothing to suggest that they are NOT effective.

    What we DO know is that private security screeners were ineffective prior to 2001, leading to the worst terrorist attack in aviation history.

    The study that is cited via CNN is two years old, and the TSA said they were going to implement new policies to fix their shortcomings. Is there evidence that those policies have not worked?

    I believe that most of security is theatre. But if the TSA misses the mark on an actual incident we can say that they are “ineffective”. In the interim, they look pretty effective to those of us who went through security in the 1990s, or those of us who’ve worked for the airlines for years.

  15. Honestly, I’m staggered that they still have actual humans doing thousands of these repetitive scans in a day. Of course they’re going to miss lots of stuff, even if this was a job that could be thoroughly done quickly, over the course of a shift the human brain and human eye just aren’t designed to maintain that level of constant concentration. The military uses computer vision to assist ground radar operators, doctors use computer vision to flag abnormalities in brain scans, or to identify the risk of malignancy in cancer imaging, why can’t the TSA implement something similar, which would help out both agents and passengers? But no, instead they flounder around with policies that have already been proven ineffective and inconvenient. I can’t believe they take security seriously when they ignore the most effective tools that are out there.

  16. “If the measure is terrorist acts on aircraft, then there is nothing to suggest that they are NOT effective.”

    Just a note from a statistician, this is not a realistic measure of effectiveness. Terrorist attacks on airplanes are not all that frequent, meaning that their absence alone doesn’t measure anything. I could just as easily claim that there haven’t been any major California earthquakes since I moved to Chicago, therefore I’m very effective at preventing major California earthquakes.

    A better measure would be similar to what they use in the article, namely dangerous items that successfully passed through screening. We don’t have a good way to measure that outside of controlled testing, though anecdotally there is evidence that lots of prohibited items get through. I myself have accidentally brought a camping knife on board in a carry-on, and there was that story a few weeks back of a CA LEO accidentally bringing a loaded gun on an international flight.

  17. Profiling? Maybe that would be more efficient. Although, I can hear the complaints now that it is unfair.

  18. Lucky, what specific airport security measures not currently in place would you and others here find acceptable and/or effective? Which current practices would you abolish completely? Which ones would you adjust?

    Also, is there a case to be made that there should NOT be a set, routine, unchanging security procedure that is always consistent for everyone, at every airport, as such a predictable system would be easier to infiltrate?

  19. @ Zymm – fair point on the statistics; I was merely trying to illustrate that the broad generalization that the TSA is “ineffective” is also one for which there is no broad based scientific evidence. It’s just an opinion.

    I would also argue that even semi-controlled tests, which are presumably carried out regularly, are not going to measure the effectiveness of preventing a terrorist attack, which is the measure that most of us care about (I often bring water bottles on board by accident, and it seems to get by check points all around the world – but I don’t believe that such incidents indicate security “ineffective”). Perhaps it’s just the rules that are ineffective.

  20. @ Gary – profiling wouldn’t help, unless it was discriminatory (and probably unconstitutional). Most terrorists in the USA and Europe, for example, are citizens of the countries that they attack. As a result, it would only be effective in those cases if it was racial or ethic profiling, which is illegal.

    And, for the record, the only people who consistently try to carry guns on airplanes in the USA are Americans.

  21. I think they should test such things in large airports. Small airports are a fair trial of such changes.
    The thing that disturbs me the most lately was what I observed at San Antonio recently. They are an airport that offers CLEAR which is OK I guess. What bothered me is that you have TSA Precheck passengers in line and anyone that wants to do a free trail or sign up for CLEAR can do it on the spot on the way through that line. It of course feeds into the front (cutting in line) on the TSA Precheck line. That all seems tame until you realize that those TSA Precheck passengers had to go through background type checks, finger printing at enrollment centers by government workers. Those signing up for CLEAR on the spot just fill out info and provide ID, etc. and can then go right through the TSA Precheck lines as they are considered less hazardous than regular passengers with no background info.

  22. If the TSA ID checkers are gonna automatically scan ids than I hope that there damn good cause the Chinese companies have found ways to manufacture fraudulent drivers licenses that pass as real when scanned.

  23. the tsa are a joke. when I was in america, the guy groping me didn’t change his gloves after the 5 people in front of me, and used the same drug swab

  24. @Paul

    You’re my new favorite commenter here. I could read you all day. Informative, spot-on, and exceptionally funny. Thanks for that!

  25. This looks like it’s long overdue. I sometime look at the X-ray screen when I wait for my bag and I can’t believe they could catch much given the jumble that it’s in certain people’s bags.

    However they should take a page from the airlines and start with charging a screening fee for anything large, like rollaboards. Right now those who check bags are subsidizing checkpoint screening those who don’t — and it’s high time this cost gets unbundled.

  26. LOL. Can’t get Jane and John public traveler to remove water bottles and laptops let alone food and other electronics! Lines? Imagine them longer. People not conforming to rules causes bags to be searched, pat downs and additional testing and lines grow. As John the pilot stated, the public just doesn’t get the info that DHS obtains. Oh, TSA is an agency of DHS. The comment about 95% goes undiscovered… BS.
    Does any with reason realize that terrorists would be having a field day exploiting that weakness??? Uh??

  27. @James Think critically: people don’t bomb planes anymore, they steal them!

    They want to use the PLANE as a bomb. But now there is literally NO MORE DANGER of hijackers using a plane for these 3 reasons:

    1. The cockpit doors are reinforced
    2. The cockpit doors are locked
    3. Pilots know not to give over control the plane

    If you were a pilot you’d know this stuff!

  28. @Frank Stop letting the “terrorists” win – there is no bombing danger on planes. See my other comment (or start demanding security checks every time more than 50 people are in a building together)

  29. Flew out my relatively small local airport, SNA, last weekend and was told to remove tablets and any food items to my surprise. First time in ~100 flights out of there.

  30. @Kevin

    Hijackers do not worry me. The recent news about laptop bombs does cause a bit of concern. Here is from CNN last week not years ago.

    not sure if you are keenly aware but a hole in an aircraft will cause an issue. I fly exclusively over large bodies of water where runways are not found for hours. Excuse my concern for everyone on my flight. Things get interesting in ETOPS 180,240 and now 330. Try that after a small explosion on board which now changes a lot of dynamics other than the 10,000 ft single engine time in still air which is what ETOPS is predicated on.

    If there is a bomb on board an aircraft what are the protocols? Least risk placement on aircraft? Or should I not be worries about that? Why do I have continuous bulletins and briefings on security then?
    Maybe you haven’t traveled much, but there are places outside of your little bubble that are not so safe.

    Also you don’t just steal an aircraft.

    But what would I know..

  31. Wednesday last week at LAX TBIT, there were no longer trays for First/Business pax.
    All of us were told to keep all liquids and laptops inside the bag, and also put our cellphones inside.
    Note this is not for TSA-Pre pax, this was all priority pax.
    I asked if this was new and the TSA guy said it started that day.

  32. Wow! TSA is ineffective as the many posts are inaccurate the terrorists would have a plane a day
    Blown out of the skies!

  33. Nsays: No need to change gloves unless there is a alarm. It’s not a drug swab. The ‘ swab’ is a chemical trap. It’s used over and over unless there is a alarm.

  34. Kevin: the reason you don’t hear any more about a shoe bomber, laptop or a diaper bomb anymore?? They aren’t winning. Be viilagent.

  35. Oh boy. The comments on here are so charmingly predictable. You’ve got the people lambasting the TSA, the people urging racial profiling, and the people arguing the TSA’s effective because there haven’t bee any major terrorist attacks on planes.

    I’m sure this has been said about, but the 95% is an actual statistic from undercover tests performed by DHS teams that was conducted in 2015. Personally, I haven’t seen many huge changes in TSA protocol in the past few years, and I fly through some major airports myself (DTW, JFK, LGA). Personally, I’m not surprised by this statistic in the least, and doubt anything they would implement in the future would be any more effective. I’ve never understood the 3oz liquid rule – couldn’t you send through multiple terrorists with smaller amounts of whatever liquid they’re worried about? And why are business class passengers so often exempt from security screenings? Is the idea of a terrorist organization having funding so crazy? And we all know those scanners don’t work particularly well either, since they’ve been shown to miss things on people’s sides, and once managed to flag a transgender person’s genitals. I’m sure that was a huge security thread.

  36. And the $0.10 bottle of mineral water I bring from home will continue to be a National Security threat so it is safer to buy one at the airport for $4.50. :()

  37. @DaninMCI That’s because they already had enrolled in PreCheck prior. CLEAR actually provides no additional benefits post ID check but is rather a service that thanks to the way it’s ran is easily scalable and never has lines. So you have no need to fear, non PC members simply are brought to the front of the standard line.

    In fact, I’d argue that CLEAR has inspired the TSA to replace TSOs with egates and the new biometric boarding system which, they are now piloting in IAD.

    I’d say more however my phone is being frustratingly slow today so hopefully this will do for now

  38. Flying out of PHX this week my bag was flagged for additional screening in the precheck line. Apparently my individual packets of string cheese alarmed the agent charged with staring at the screen. The fellow searching my bag seemed a little embarrassed when he discovered my lunch hiding among the electronics and mumbled something about the “density of organic products” prompting further investigation. I felt a little sorry for him…

  39. two weekends ago we flew OC to Vegas round trip. in OC they did not tell you to take out iPads and other electronics they just pulled them aside and did it for you. They had a bunch of people working so even with the extra screening things were moving ok. In Vegas for the return they did not have large bins out so you could not pull anything out of your bag. They just had the small round ones to put your keys in. Their was a TSA agent in Vegas with a tiny sign that told people to keep their shoes on. They were also forcing you to walk a path that did not make a lot sense other than they had to be testing some kind of electronic monitoring.

  40. Mission creep gone mad. Looks like Trumpoid paranoia is now infecting the boys and girls at the TSA. Or, at least, the TSA is exploiting the current security atmosphere to make a case for jacked up funding. Like NATO and the DNC need an enemy (Russia) to justify existence, the TSA needs to whip up hysteria to pad its rolls. As a former public servant I am very well aware of how this dynamic works. As for the laptop ban it was clearly set up by the US airline lobby to nobble the Middle East quartet — reading recent news reports the stunt seems to be succeeding. And @James, the public is just as deserving as you are for information; not only the pilots perish in a plane crash and there are far more passengers than pilots. Your arrogance is nauseating.

  41. @san Marino sorry that’s not how it works junior.
    Also when 300 plus souls are on board the aircraft I am operating you are damn right I want it to be safe. That goes from maintenance to security. Please excuse your arrogance

  42. I don’t even know why the TSA bothers to check IDs. Out of boredom, I used my South Carolina fake to get pass security at JFK T8 a few years ago. Honestly I feel like any bouncer or bartender in the nation could do a better job at identifying fake ID’s.

    I guess in a sense it’s a good call they’re trying to switch to the automatic system…

  43. Many times I have been told _not_ to remove items from my bag, although I know their X-rays will appear suspect. Of course, the bag gets pulled aside, re-X-rayed, swabbed, and that delays everyone. This only ever happens in the US.

  44. Zymm
    There are very few places where radiologists are using computer assistance. This technology is still in its infancy

  45. @James Google “95% TSA failure” and a whole host of stories will pop up. Here’s one: This was from a study in 2015. There were a series of congressional hearings about it too.

    I’m all for security, but it has to be effective. A lot of people use the Israel example. No body scanners, no constantly changing random rules, just metal detectors and highly trained officers experienced in observing body language both questioning travelers and observing people from the moment they approach the airport. When I visited, my luggage was manually inspected and I was questioned by an agent, and I was with a US government delegation accompanied by a rep from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs!

  46. Israel also profiles and makes it known they do. Been through Ben Gurion many a time. Have no problems with the way they do things there and wish it would be implemented in the US. But it would never be allowed.

  47. This morning in Vegas the entire C gate security area had signs saying “100% canine screening in place. No TSA Pre or Clear lanes during this enhanced screening”

    Then–the sad thing– is that EVERY lane was operating in TSA Pre mode. Only using metal detectors, laptops and liquids stay in bags, shoes on.

    In CLE yesterday morning there was a line of airport workers and airline crew, walking in thru the exit lane with zero screening. Up untl recently these categories of workers all went throug metal detectors with their bags.

    To me, it just demonstrates how understaffed they are going into the Holiday weekend in the US. Looks like they decided loosen up security looks better for them than social media reports of long lines.

  48. I’m over the robotic loosers that work for the TSA.
    Incredible inconsistency’s from one airport to another.
    Sometimes they question contact lens cleaner, and sometime the allow.

  49. @James,

    The point you completely miss is that there are comparable and better targets everywhere that don’t require sneaking a bomb onto a plane.

    The protocol if someone detonated a bomb on a plane are probably the same as if they detonated it in a school auditorium, concert hall or mall: you are screwed.

    If despite this you are still more paranoid about someone blowing up the plane you happen to be on than being killed in a car accident or dying from heart disease you must ask yourself, “Why am I so terrified of something so uncommon and unlikely?”

    That’s the point.

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