TSA Adds to Ever-Growing List of Post-9/11 Flight Security Annoyances

The TSA will not allow cellphones or other electronic devices on U.S.-bound planes at some overseas airports if the devices are not charged up.
The TSA will not allow cellphones or other electronic devices on U.S.-bound planes at some overseas airports if the devices are not charged up. –Jason Reed/REUTERS

Passengers on some U.S.-bound flights will now be forced to turn on their electronic devices during pre-flight security to prove they work, another check in a long list of flight security changes made in the 13 years since the 9/11 attacks.

The Transportation Security Administration is now requiring that passengers at foreign airports flying to the U.S. turn on their electronic devices during screenings. Devices that fail to power up won’t be allowed on planes. The change means uncharged or powerless phones won’t be allowed onto some flights.

The requirement was imposed as intelligence officials have become concerned that al-Qaeda operatives could create bombs out of cellphones.


“In this instance we felt that it was important to crank [screening] up some at the last point of departure airports and we’ll continually evaluate the situation,’’ Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on NBC’s Meet the Press last weekend.

That new requirement is just another hassle that flyers will have to endure, a list that grows more cumbersome every few months as the TSA hedges and updates policies of what is and is not acceptable.

Here’s a rundown of the changes that have been made to security screenings in the last 13 years:

No more knives: Boxcutters, small knives, scissors, and more got the axe in the immediate days after 9/11. Tweezers and manicure scissors are included in banned list.

Tweezers removed the banned knives list: because, in the words of the New York Times, “Screeners were spending too much time taking them from passengers.’’

Small knives might be allowed: TSA proposes plan to reverse course and allow small knives on flights.

Wait no, small knives still not allowed: The TSA’s proposal was scuttled in 2013 after heavy criticism.

Butane lighters banned in 2004, but regular lighters still allowed.

Shoes must be taken off: A response to the attempted shoe-bomb plot of Richard Reid in December 2001, in which Reid hid gunpowder in the sole of his boots.


Children and elderly can keep shoes on: A 2012 change allowed children under 12 and those over 75 to go through security without taking their shoes off.

Laptops in their own container: Laptops of a certain size have to be taken out of their bag and put into their own container for screening. That size is fairly arbitrary.

All liquids are banned: All liquid, gels, and aerosols are immediately banned as a response to the August 2006 plot to use home-made bombs disguised as liquid drinks to detonate on planes

Small amounts of liquids un-banned: The 3-1-1 liquids rule goes into use in September 2006: 3.4 ounces per container, in one quart-sized pack, and one package per person.

Precheck lets you avoid everything: Those enrolled in the recent TSA Pre-check program at certain airports can go through security without taking off their shoes or taking out laptops or liquids.

Patdowns: More aggressive and touchy physical patdowns were introduced in 2010, sparking complaints almost immediately.

Small talk with an officer: At checkpoints, TSA officers ask a question or two – Where are you headed? How long have you been in town? – in an attempt to detect shady or suspicious behavior.

Intense full-body scanners see naked images: The ‘backscatter’ full-body scanners, which show a nude image to a TSA agent behind the door, were introduced after the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing of 2009.

Intense full-body scanners taken away: After privacy and safety concerns were raised, the scanners were removed last year. Passengers still go through full-body scanners, but they use radio waves and have less detailed imaging.


Avoid the No-fly list: Get on the list and you can’t get on the plane. There is little information about who is on that list or why they are not allowed to fly.

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