TSA Adds Security Measures Following Terror Attempt

According to the AP, the restrictions detailed below have already been eased. Click here for updates.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented new security policies following the failed attempt to bomb a Delta flight on Christmas day. Passengers traveling within the United States will likely see fewer new measures in action than those traveling into the country from an international destination.

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The TSA's official list of guidelines, however, is vague. For domestic travelers, TSA says, "At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport." TSA also recomends allowing a little extra time for check-in and security, but says "Passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport."

International travelers, on the other hand, "can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight."

According to USA Today, what this really means is, "For the time being, passengers flying to the USA must remain in their seats for about an hour before their flight lands and put away personal items, such as electronic equipment, bags, pillows and other bulky items." As for domestic passengers, they "will see more bomb-sniffing dogs, airport police and TSA officers who observe passengers and question those who appear suspicious.... The agency is increasing "gate screening": pulling passengers waiting to board out of line to search their belongings."

So, to summarize:

Domestic Passengers

What to Expect

  • Increased police presence at security, including bomb-sniffing K9 units
  • Greater chance of additional screenings of person via pat-downs and hand-held devices
  • Greater chance of additional bag searches, even after passing through X-ray

What to Do

  • Allow extra time for security and check-in
  • Organize your carry-on for easy searching if selected for additional screening
  • Carry the bare minimum on your person, and be extra sure to empty your pockets, etc., before screening

International Passengers

What to Expect

  • More attention paid to bathroom visits, both in frequency and duration
  • Limited use of electronic devices during the last hour of a flight
  • Restrictions on leaving your seat during the last hour of a flight
  • Restrictions on having anything on your lap during the last hour of a flight
  • Increased police presence at security, including bomb-sniffing K9 units
  • Greater chance of additional screenings of person via pat-downs and hand-held devices
  • Greater chance of additional bag searches, even after passing through X-ray

What to Do

  • Pay close attention to instructions from the flight crew, both before and during your flight
  • Allow extra time for security and check-in
  • Try to hit the restroom before the last hour of the flight (and prepare for a line)
  • Organize your carry-on for easy searching if selected for additional screening
  • Carry the bare minimum on your person, and be extra sure to empty your pockets, etc., before screening

At this point, it's not clear exactly how long these restrictions will be in place.

The most significant aspect of this incident may be that the suspect's makeshift bomb was comprised largely of a powder explosive. Powder explosives are difficult to detect with current screening procedures and equipment, and are the main target of the controversial whole body scanners the TSA is in the process of implementing. Whole body scanners can locate non-metallic items concealed beneath passengers' clothes. Investigators have surmised that the suspect hid his bomb-making materials on his body.

Investigators also suspect he had an accomplice, perhaps a security worker in Amsterdam who helped him escape scrutiny.

The security implications of this incident extend to the government's no-fly list. The suspect's father apparently alerted the American embassy in October that his son had been "radicalized," and could pose a threat to the U.S. The government, for reasons not yet known, did not add the suspect's name to the no-fly list or revoke his U.S. travel visa, though he was marked for a full investigation if and when he applied for a new visa.

President Obama has ordered a full review of both airport security and no-fly list procedures.

Readers, do you think the new security measures will have a significant impact on your travels?

Read comments or add your own insight!
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