The TSA has announced the implementation of new security measures for passengers of some flights that are entering the United States from abroad. The biggest change is that passengers will be required to demonstrate that electronic devices have the ability to be powered on before the devices are allowed past security.
I just returned from Beijing on Saturday and this new policy was not in place at the Beijing airport but there were some stark differences in security protocol in China. First, I didn’t have to remove my shoes but I did have to have my iPad out and any portable device battery units had to examined. Portable charging devices are all the rage right now and while traveling I made sure to have several with me all of the time in case my phone or iPad ran out of juice.
The new security measures are designed to address the threat of a mobile device being used to hold dangerous materials or explosive devices instead of the actual electronics. If you can turn on the phone or tablet then there is very little chance of additional content being inside, especially considering the intricacies required to fit all of the normal parts inside.
This reminds of the security on the Beijing subway system when I was stopped because I had a water bottle. Instead of inspecting the water they simply asked me to drink some of it. If I could drink it then apparently it wasn’t a threat. The question that the TSA hasn’t addressed is why the change is happening right now, when clearly mobile devices have been traveling with us all over the globe. It is possible that they have identified threats which involved mobile devices at specific airports or discovered a weakness in the security in specific countries. Either way it shouldn’t be a huge inconvenience as long as you know it is coming and you can certainly save time by having them powered up before entering security. If you let your battery die then you could be in for a really inconvenient conversation with airport security and hopefully you have a charger with you.