The TSA’s long-reaching arm has gotten longer and just a tad more inconvenient. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has directed its already unpopular TSA force to perform additional security checks on electronic devices, requiring owners to power on their gadgets and disallow the devices from the flight if they are not functional. And, of course, TSA agents can then take the passenger aside for further investigation.
The TSA already performs checks on gadgets, so that isn’t exactly new. What is new, however, is that now it has the authority to demand that passengers flying to the US from overseas airports to also power on their device for further checking. If the device won’t turn on, they are not allowed on the plane, with or without its owner. Of course, the phone or tablet might have just run out of battery while its owner was waiting for boarding call. Or it could also be a bomb.
The latter is most likely the reason for the additional security procedure. Anti-terrorism intelligence reports that there are militant groups in Syria and Yemen that are masquerading bombs as run of the mill electronic devices precisely to evade airport security checks. Although US officials admit that there is a “credible threat”, they denied that these new “enhanced security measures” have anything to do with that. Which no one will probably believe.
These new TSA powers aren’t even limited to US soil. Although the US government has no direct jurisdiction in foreign airports, airlines and airports that offer non-stop flights to the US are required to meet the TSA’s standards anyway. In effect, TSA personnel stationed in overseas airports will be authorized to perform these checks, ban the devices, and, should they see fit based on their better judgment, perform additional screening on the would-be passenger.
While strengthened security to prevent future disastrous attacks and loss of lives is something that is good in theory, actual implementation is a bit spotty, if not somewhat ridiculous. According to one security agent, the secondary checks are absolutely required before passengers flying solo are allowed to board. However, couples and families traveling together aren’t subjected to this increased scrutiny, which leaves a gaping hole in this new security measure.