June 29, 2017
The federal government will soon begin searching through travelers’ books at the airport as airlines test out fingerprint scans.
Next time you choose to take a flight in the United States, you will not only be given the option of a free walk through the full body scanner or a complimentary rub down courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration. Your next flight might include a search of your laptop, books, and possibly a fingerprint scan. Since the launch of the Trump administration travelers have been subject to increasingly invasive measures in the form of laptop searches and discrimination against those traveling from majority Muslim countries.
Now the TSA is testing out new measures that require passengers to remove books and paper goods from their carry-on luggage. According to new reports from The Wall Street Journal and Sacramento Bee, the TSA had already begun to roll out these new invasive policies.
“While I expect going through airline security to be time-consuming and mildly annoying, my attitude changed recently as I prepared to board a flight out of Sacramento International Airport in the days after Memorial Day weekend,” the Sacramento Bee wrote. “As I stood in line, Transportation Security Administration officials announced at SMF that everyone was to take books, magazines and food out of their bags and put them into a separate bin for inspection. That was it. A line was crossed for me.”
As the Bee notes, reading material is extremely personal and revealing about a person. If individuals know that their reading habits – whether they relate to philosophy, politics, sexuality, or religion – will be scrutinized they may began a process of self-censorship. It also presents the question, what type of reading material could be questionable or even, banned? At this point the TSA is claiming that bombs could be hidden within books and are not focusing their efforts on content specifically. However, this is likely the beginning of an incremental strategy to remove as much freedom as possible for travelers. As the Sac Bee wrote, “We need to resist the creep of authoritarianism. During the Cold War, spying on neighbors was common in the Soviet Bloc. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, people reported others for listening to Western Classical Music.”
The American Civil Liberties Union noted that there have already been multiple cases of passengers singled out for their First Amendment-protected expressions. “For example, in 2010 the ACLU sued on behalf of a man who was abusively interrogated, handcuffed, and detained for nearly five hours because he was carrying a set of Arabic-language flash cards and a book critical of U.S. foreign policy,” the ACLU writes. We also know that the DHS database known as the “Automated Targeting System,” which tracks information on international travelers, has included notations in travelers’ permanent files about controversial books in their possession.”
In a recent interview with Fox News, John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, seemed to confirm the goal of implementing the strategy on a nationwide scale. Kelly was asked whether or not the new policy of unpacking carry on luggage and separating food and electronics into separate bins will indeed go nationwide.
“Yes, I mean, the reason we’ve done, TSA, of course, works for me,” Kelly stated. He then blamed the need for these programs on travelers who are “trying to avoid the $25 or $50 or whatever it is to check a bag” by stuffing their bags too full and TSA monitors can not see what’s inside. When pushed further about the program going nationwide, Kelly states, “We might, and likely will.”
These plans were confirmed once again on Wednesday, as Secretary Kelly announced plans for new strategies to be implemented by the TSA. “We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat,” Kelly said. “Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed.”
Although DHS officials declined to comment on specifics, ABC News reports that passengers may notice more swabbing of passengers’ hands and luggage to test for explosives. It is highly likely that the agencies book policy will be a part of these new strategies.
Another change making its way to your local airport includes the implementation of biometrics. A writer with Yahoo Finance discusses the new policies on display during a recent demonstration at Washington’s National Airport.
“Instead of handing your boarding pass and ID to a Transportation Security Administration agent, you could soon simply place two fingerprints on a scanner to be recognized and ushered through security — and then you could repeat the process to board the plane,” Yahoo writes.
These changes are part of an initiative started by Delta Air Lines. Delta has started the practice at Delta’s SkyClub lounge at National airport. Sandy Gordon, Delta’s vice president of airport operations, says the airline aims to have the strategy added to the check-in experience. Yahoo notes that the process saves minimal to no time since the process is still a part of the routine admittance policies for boarding a flight. Sandy Gordon said Delta is working with the TSA to get full approval for the program.
This is a test. This an important moment in time where passengers and travelers will have to decide if they are willing to put up with anything for the right to travel. The DHS has already begun implementing biometric entry and exit requirements for international travelers arriving and leaving the United States. This is part of the larger strategy of dividing Americans over illegitimate fears of terrorism and foreigners so they willingly give up what little civil liberties they have left.