TSA Trends: Nixing Knives and “Nude” Scanners

The busy summer travel season has barely started, but TSA has already had a hectic few weeks.

First, it swapped out all of its controversial full-body scanners, which critics alleged took images that left little to the imagination. Then it reversed a decision on allowing things like Swiss Army knives back on airplanes after a firestorm of protest.

So what do these changes mean for business travelers? Here’s a rundown:

Chopping the small knife proposal

After loud and widespread outrage from consumers, airline workers and some members of Congress, the TSA cut its proposal to allow small knives and sports equipment – like hockey sticks and golf clubs – back in airplane cabins.

Sports equipment and knives were banned after the terrorist attacks in 2001 because they could potentially be wielded as weapons. The TSA wanted its screeners to focus on bigger things, like finding bombs.

But safety advocates worried a return to pre-9/11 policies was just asking for trouble – particularly if a 9 iron was the hands of a drunk or mentally-ill passenger. After the TSA’s announcement, the House of Representatives voted to make sure the agency would never reverse the policy again.

On a related note, Star Wars-style lightsaber canes are still okay to carry on as of this week.


Covering up those “nude” body scanners


Within the last two weeks, all full-body scanners that took X-rays compositing “nude” images of passengers were removed from U.S. airports. About 250 machines were taken away, replaced by technology that employs generic, sexless figures on screen.

Congress required the TSA remove the controversial “nude” scanners by June 1, but privacy advocates still aren’t satisfied. Questions linger about whether the machines retain images of passengers, and whether less-invasive metal detectors do the job just as well.

Beyond pocketknives and stripped-down scanners, it looks like the summer will continue to heat up for the TSA. Just last week came word that the agency does not screen passengers objectively and instead relies on racial profiling, according to a report by the Homeland Security Department. Reviews are underway, but we’ll keep an eye on how this news might effect changes in airport security screening in the future.

Photo credit: Bill Alldredge

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