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Technology That Confounds the TSA

I’m not at all bothered by airport security, even though I’ve been traveling a lot more recently. It’s sort of routine to remove my laptop from the case, put it in its own bin, take off my shoes and get through the checkpoint as fast as possible. I’m a PC guy (that’s personal computer), but I’ve seen the commercials for the new ultra thin MacBook Air that fits into an interoffice type envelope. It seems, however, that the TSA was taken by surprise by one recently when an air traveler was delayed through security because his MacBook lacked some “standard features”.

In response to the growing complaints, a veteran, seasoned TSA supervisor at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport put the MacBook Air through an X-ray scanner and found that it “does look completely different than your typical laptop or DVD player. I can't get into specifics of course, but there were a couple of areas on the X-ray that could pique some interest for Transportation Security Officers,” he said.

TSA moved pretty quickly to inform its security officers about this new technology, and that it isn’t a security threat. But this incident does raise a question of how TSA will be able to keep up with technology as it evolves. From personal experience I can tell you that anything that is “not normal” (like an electronic prototype system that I carried through security at LaGuardia Airport a few years ago) creates quite a stir and will get you separated out of the queue for “special treatment” until TSA is satisfied that all of the wires, mirrors and the motor are innocuous (all justified).

CNETNews.com provides a list of their top five technologies to “confuse” the TSA (probably not an all inclusive list) including lead-lined pouches to carry standard film for an old fashioned SLR camera, homemade electronic devices, insulin pumps, certain types of mini-tablets or PDAs, and the new Hello Kitty Assault Rifle

This is a serious problem, and one that is bound to continue as the technology revolution continues. At the same time, however, while it is not publicized, the TSA has acknowledged that its goal is to clear 200 passengers-per-hour through security the checkpoints.


If you travel by air frequently, then you may want to consider the "Clear" pass provided the airports you tend to use offer the Clear pass security option.

As for me, I plan my air travel at times when lines should be the shortest though a recent unannounced "orange" alert did catch me unawares----I was not a happy camper along with lots of others!

Blackspeare, most of the airports I'm going to are small because my "associates" are in remote locations (except when I fly to DC). CLEAR is a great program though, and worth the $100. However, I doubt if CLEAR would make it any easier for me to travel with my one-of-a-kind "blackbox."

Back in the good old days, Penn Jillet had a column in "PC Computing" magazine.

One of them was on having a Batch File that would count down from 10 to KaBoom when you turned your laptop on for the gateworker.

Probably good for something other than laughs, these days.

Actually Doug, anyone pulling that "Kaboom" gag these days is likely to find himself "taken aside." Of course, they no longer ask you to turn on the computer. They just scan your harddrive :).