Airport Screening to Change December 22

The much-ballyhooed changes to TSA airport screening procedures will go into effect December 22, just in time for Christmas travel.

Air-Travel Screening to Change Dec. 22 (AP)

Airline passengers soon will be allowed to take small scissors and screwdrivers aboard planes again, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley announced Friday. Hawley said the change will take effect Dec. 22 and is part of a broader effort aimed at having screeners spend more of their time searching for explosives rather than small, sharp objects that don’t pose as great a risk. The small implements were banned after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Under the new plan, more passengers will be subjected to secondary screening and pat-downs will include the arms and legs as well as the torso. Passengers also can expect more randomness at security gates so would-be terrorists won’t know for sure what they will see. For example, an airport might require all passengers to remove their shoes one day but not the next. Some passengers may have to show their identification an extra time or have their carry-on bag hand-searched.
“By incorporating unpredictability into our procedures and eliminating low-threat items, we can better focus our efforts on stopping individuals who wish to do us harm,” Hawley said.

Among the items no longer prohibited from airliner cabins: scissors 4 inches or less, and tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers that are smaller than 7 inches. Box-cutters and small knives will remain on the list of banned items.

While I understand the rationale for unpredictability, randomly doing stupid things is still stupid. Having people subjected to random groping and being forced to take their shoes off absent the slightest suspicion is still stupid–to say nothing of outrageous–when done randomly. Indeed, more so since people will at least grow accustomed to regularized mistreatment.

On that subject, I continue to be amazed at the lack of standardization from airport-to-airport now that TSA is in charge of screening. Some airports require showing boarding passes multiple times, others don’t. Some require people to take their shoes off, others don’t. Interestingly, the D.C. area airports are among the least intrusive in that regard, which seems odd given that two of the 911 airplanes took off from Dulles and the national capital region is one of the prime targets. Oddly, the most aggravating security checks I’ve undergone recently was at the podunk airport in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Update (12/3, 0702: Cori Dauber agrees: “Excellent. Replacing one inefficiency with the increase of another inefficiency.”


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Well, as is well known, the 22nd of December, 2005 is the twentieth anniversary (yup, 20) of my first date with my lovely wife.

    This is the reason that the TSA has chosen that date.

    My wife and I thank the federal government for the lovely gesture.

  2. Charlotte says:

    THANK GOODNESS! The TSA has FINALLY come to their senses and is stopping the madness. The incredible long lines the incredible things I personally have had to go through IN UNIFORM has been ridiculous. 9/11 will NEVER happen again just like PEARL HARBOR never happened again.
    Tactics change for heavens sake.
    I see all the ordinary citizens being HUMILIATED as they pass by the TSA (THOUSANDS STANDING AROUND) ( Takes Scissors Away) group. How dare you not know that your shoes your belt your tie clip your cuff links , your pen knife ARE CONTRABAND— hey maybe you are a terrorist…? NAh, you are not a terrorist you are however caught up in a system that wants you to feel safe rather than “be safe”.
    This is a NON issue. Lets worry about who touches the plane BEFORE the passengers get on, before the crews get on.The caterers, the cleaners, the various cargo that goes inthe belly of the aircraft.
    Or better yet, lets worry about someone getting a rpg and ripping one of our airplanes to shreds as they take off.