The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been steadily beefing up security after the surge of added measures inspired by 9/11. No one that gets on a plane can circumvent taking off their shoes, belts, hats and putting all of their belongings in the Advanced Technology (AT) x-ray machine. Most airlines tell you to arrive a minimum of an hour early to avoid missing a plane due to long lines for check-in, and the subsequent search of your person. But now, due to a potential surge of electronic look-a-like bombs, the Transportation Security Administration is treating dead phones as such, and is not allowing them to board planes en route to the U.S.
After 9/11 the TSA’s biggest concern was preventing hijackings. In response, all cockpit doors were reinforced, the check-in process became a little longer and Air Marshals on planes became a common sight. The Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) is a department under the TSA’s supervision which is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Before 9/11 Air Marshals were few and far between, only 50 were approved by Congress, and of those 50, only 33 were on active duty. The month after 9/11, 600 Air Marshals were trained and put into service, and now there are around 4,000. These Marshals had to perform within the top one percent of accuracy to even be considered, as they were trained to shoot down hijackers in a plane’s cramped quarters if need be.
Now the concern is moving away from hijackers, and hidden explosives are the new concern. Bombs can be disguised to look like a phone, and that is why the Transportation Security Administration is now treating dead phones like so many bottles of shampoo. The TSA wants people to either charge them or they will be thrown out. Many officials suspect that bomb makers might be able to skirt the security measures that are currently in place, with advances in camouflage. With that said, the phones that are getting the most scrutiny are the best-selling phones, the iPhone and the Galaxy series by Samsung. However, it is not just cell phones that are getting the twice over; reports have come in saying that tablets and laptops are being flagged as well. No reports have mentioned cameras or gaming devices like the Game Boy series being checked, but it would not be a surprise.
The reason for the security upgrades being implemented now stems from U.S. Intelligence reports. The report states that Yemen-based Al Qaeda bomb makers are traveling to Syria to meet with Al Qaeda members there. This raises two concerns for the Transportation Security Administration. One is that there have been multiple thwarted bomb plots originating from the Arab Peninsula, including underwear bombs and bombs hidden in ink printer cartridges. The other threat is that many Americans are going to Syria to help with the efforts there, so there is worry that terror groups might be able to slide in with less inspection using American or other Western passports.
Currently the security increases are only for inbound international flights. However, as of now it is still unclear if they will be moving into domestic flights as well. On Sunday there was a man found trying to smuggle a knife under the sole of his shoe into a plane at a Detroit airport, so this confirms the fact that threats are not only seen overseas. It is possible that the Transportation Security Administration will be treating intra-national fliers like bomb-makers if they try to board a plane with a dead phone.
By Eddie Mejia