TSA To Require Separate Scanning Of Electronics 'Bigger Than Cellphone'

from the brought-to-by-minds-'smaller-than-most' dept

The TSA is still in the business of making sure none of your stuff is inside other stuff. Liquids. Laptops. Other things that confuse/frighten failed mall cops. After engaging in a “successful” trial program in ten airports, the TSA is expanding its theater troupe’s infliction of misery to airports around the nation.

To ensure the security of airline passengers and the nation’s airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing new, stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes. Following extensive testing and successful pilots at 10 airports, TSA plans to expand these measures to all U.S. airports during the weeks and months ahead.


As new procedures are phased in, TSA officers will begin to ask travelers to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image.

The press release comes with zero clarification on what “larger than a cellphone” means. Over the last eight years, the size of my smartphone has increased to “larger than a cellphone” when compared to the 2009 iteration. Is this phone/not phone call going to be made by screeners? Is a flip-phone-using former gym teacher who changed careers after reading a particularly effective pizza box ad going to decide travelers’ smartphones are nothing more than small tablets and force them to drop them in a bin where they can be pawed at by TSA probers further down the security line?

Because that’s exactly the sort of thing we don’t need: more TSA personnel/policies stating that bigger is more dangerous. We already have the problem with laptops because the TSA’s math says potential threat level is directly proportionate to screen size.

If this doesn’t sound like much fun or make much sense, not to worry: the TSA will sell some rights and privileges back to you after a background check and a personal check (from you to the TSA). All others will be expected to dump their electronics in bins and engage in fruitless arguments about whether the phone they’re carrying is a cellphone or “larger than a cellphone.”

But that’s ok, because the TSA is oh so concerned about you, dear traveler:

“Whether you’re flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.



Haha… oh my god, she’s serious.

God bless the TSA, where enhanced screening is something to be inflicted on travelers, but never job applicants.

The TSA notes this change “may” cause delays during screening, which can be read as “will,” especially as everyone gets the hang of the latest thing the TSA’s doing (including the TSA). More items will be headed to checked bags, which works out for airlines. And more people will be piled up at security checkpoints, which works out well for terrorists.

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Comments on “TSA To Require Separate Scanning Of Electronics 'Bigger Than Cellphone'”

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TechDescartes (profile) says:

Just a Thought

Because that’s exactly the sort of thing we don’t need: more TSA personnel/policies stating that bigger is more dangerous.

Just like with 3 ounces of liquids, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that someone has figured out a way to hide explosives or a weapon (maybe a knife blade?) where the battery pack normally would be. If so, then yes, bigger is more dangerous.

Before the commentariat attacks with "there’s no proof of that or the TSA wouldn’t catch them anyway", let me suggest that there need to be three categories of TSA/CBP issues:

  1. policies related to people and their bodies;
  2. policies related to inspecting the contents of electronic devices (and journals, books, etc.); and,
  3. policies related to things.

Would it be nice not to have to pull out tablets, cellphones, etc. and have them x-rayed separately? Sure. But save your outrage for the more important issues. The public has a limited attention span.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just a Thought

Hell, doesn’t bug me to be honest. Everyone behind me will just have to wait as I pull out my two laptops, portable wifi access point, multiple powerbanks, mouse, tablet, two bags of various cables, a couple of USB HDDs, dashcam, steam controller, Nintendo 3ds, work cell phone and my rasbperry pi pentest device, fitbit, and a bunch of USB keys. At least they’ll be able to look at some pretty cool eletronics while they wait.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just a Thought

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that someone has figured out a way to hide explosives or a weapon (maybe a knife blade?) where the battery pack normally would be.

We know people have figured out how to get weapons past the TSA, because the people auditing the TSA have managed to do it pretty much every time they’ve tried. And yet there have been no attacks worth mentioning; just because we give them billions of dollars and they can occasionally detect something doesn’t mean we’re actually safer, if the risk was negligible to begin with. Putting that money toward any public health problem would almost certainly save more lives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Just a Thought

Is there a good reason to think compliance is the goal? It might just be money

If I could control everyone in the world I guarantee you I would be the richest person in the world.

although given that some of those people have no need for more money we might suspect otherwise.

Greed knows no bounds.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Just a Thought

"Is there a good reason to think compliance is the goal?"

Sure, compliance and/or distraction.

How else do you keep the US public from objecting that since the early ’80s the average worker’s pay has plateaued whilst productivity has risen, thereby allowing the ratio between US company board level salaries and average workers pay to widen from 20:1 in 1980 to ~340:1 today?

Look out!!! Drug-crazed child molesting job stealing Mexican pirate terrorists!!!

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Define the size of a cellphone.

Here’s a photo I took about 10 days ago in response to AccessNow’s US policy manager Amy Stepanovich) wishing people would stop using ‘bigger than a cellphone’ as a unit of measure.
I just happen to have a bunch of various cellphones (and a tablet that can be used as a cellphone) to show the size difference

Anonymous Coward says:

It will just change behaviour

If the terrorists were really out there they would just fill a laptop full of explosives with the detonator hooked up to an x-ray detector. Explosions in airports would cause much more panic than planes.

Every “security option” these bozos try is exploitable with another option that turns it deadly.

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

They said larger than a cell phone

Since cell phones vary so much in size both by brand and over time, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that anything smaller than the largest cell phones anyone has ever used must be ok. I mean if they’re going to be vague in their rules it’s only fair that I get to be vague in my obedience to them!


Isn’t history fun?

Carlie Coats (profile) says:

This from one of the deadliest terrorist organizations on the planet

The appropriate way to measure the cost of such TSA measures is to measure the cost in terms of human lifetimes wasted.

The numbers on flights, inspections, etc., are publicly available, on a per-year basis.

Assuming a waking lifespan of (72 years)*(52 weeks/year)*(112 waking hours per week), the numbers say that over the last fifteen years, time wasted by TSA inspections has cost from 7300 lives per year to 10,500 lives per year.

That makes TSA the most deadly terrorist organization on the planet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This from one of the deadliest terrorist organizations on the planet

You’re measuring purely in terms of lost time. Studies that measure actual risk of death (e.g. in micromorts) have shown that the TSA causes people to avoid flying in favor of more risky transportation (mostly driving), and this actually causes more people to die ("if the proposed TSA boycott reduces air travel by only a fraction of a percent, it offers a golden opportunity to kill and maim thousands more on our nation’s highways").

Personanongrata says:

Lickspittles, Flunkies and Frogs

TSA To Require Separate Scanning Of Electronics ‘Bigger Than Cellphone’

That’s it frogs do as you are commanded:

Take off your shoes, empty your pockets, limit the amount of personal hygiene products in your carry-on to 3 ounces or less, unpack your electronic gear for inspection by some know-nothing TSA flunky, and allow yourself and your children to suffer the public humiliation of being gate raped and bombarded with ionizing radiation all in the name of safety.

No, no the water is not getting warmer it is your imagination.

You are such a well conditioned frog (ie serf) you have nothing to worry about as you now genuflect unquestioningly upon the command of some US government lickspittle all for the convenience of air travel.


Please be a good frog and make sure you arrive at the airport a minimum of 24 hours before your estimated departure so as you may be gate raped and have your personal belongs rifled through without fear of missing your flight.

PS After 15 years of screening and 10 billion passengers exposed to TSA’s humiliation and gate rape how many terrorists or terrorist plots have the know-nothing flunkies of TSA uncovered?

Zero, as in zip, zing, nada, nothing!


Shilling says:

In Europe you can’t take electronic devices as hand luggage when they visually look like the devices are tempered with since last week. A missing screw or a dent on the device stops you from boarding a plane. Well only when you travel to America offcourse. And here is the kicker… This wasn’t communicated to travelers which resulted in missed flights.

Seems to me the tsa is becoming the terrorist. Spreading fear in travelers minds that everyone is trying to kill you when you fly to America.

DOlz (profile) says:

New TSA policy to prevent chemical attacks

To prevent chemical attacks on planes to TSA will not allow passengers to board that have consumed the following in the last 24 hours:

01) Asparagus
02) Broccoli
03) Brussels sprouts
04) Cabbage
05) Onions
06) Beans and other legumes

This list will be expanded later and a list of restaurants will be added after extensive investigation by TSA officials during meal breaks.

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