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Transportation Power Security United States

TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes 702

Trachman writes The US Transport Security Administration revealed on Sunday that enhanced security procedures on flights coming to the US now include not allowing uncharged cell phones and other devices onto planes. “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted on board the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening,” TSA said in a statement.
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TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

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  • by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:07AM (#47398381)
    All those free phones, tablets, laptops, etc. - it is great to be working for TSA!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:07AM (#47398383)

    This was specifically for international flights into the US originating from certain countries, not a TSA-wide procedure.

    • So, don't lug non-working electronics around with you when you travel. And hope your battery doesn't die while traveling.
      • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:28AM (#47398509)

        Or do so if you want to save on disposal fees....

    • Hey stop throwing in facts, that messes up a perfectly good outrage. Every story needs to be 1 paragraph long and at least 2 sentences of editorial in it for it to be legit.

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:50AM (#47399109)

      This was specifically for international flights into the US originating from certain countries, not a TSA-wide procedure.

      Yet... give it a month. I know a couple of TSA people for some reason. Their IQ is slightly above your typical McDonalds worker, only because they need to know how to put on a tie. A lot of their "procedures" are only there because they heard it was a good idea on the news yesterday. Granted, I'm near Chicago so maybe they have smarter people working in the newyork airports but I doubt it.

      Keep in mind, that TSA has yet to have stopped a single bombing. The only reasons we've not had a plane go down is due to lack of effort, not any increase in security. The few attempts that have been made, made it through the TSA with ease and it was the efforts of passengers or the stupidity of the attacker that saved the plane.

      In tests, they fail to stop devices from getting on the plane pretty much every time: []

      They've no evidence that they have ever stopped anything: []

      The majority of what they catch are people trying to smuggle things they shouldn't like plants and animals or people that try to take legit firearms into the cabin when they should have put it in their luggage: []

      • Oh, absolutely .... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:05AM (#47399207) Journal

        I know a couple of people who work for the TSA too, and sadly, they view all of this stuff as amusing ways to irritate the general public, who they regard as generally stupid and annoying in the first place.

        If you corner them on any of the security policies, they'll readily admit they don't necessarily enhance security or serve a useful purpose. They just feel like all of that is unimportant, vs. the expectation that travelers just "follow the orders and instructions". If you don't cooperate, you're one of those "stupid and annoying people who can't follow directions" - so they ridicule you and enjoy your suffering as they put you through extra screening, detain you, or what-not.

        It's funny how you can take practically anyone, dress them up in a uniform and a badge, and give them some sort of arbitrary control or power over others, and they suddenly feel superior.

        • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:13AM (#47399283)

          Wealth and power breed a sense of entitlement:

          It's human nature. That's why people in positions of power should be required to follow a strict set of guidelines rather than apply them arbitrarily to whomever they seem to think deserves scrutiny. "Gut feelings" don't work. The people trying to get stuff on planes know this, and know to be cooperative and smile. The guy waring the "Don't tread of me" tshirt, refusing to be strip searched, may be a jerk... but he's not trying to hurt anyone.

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:48AM (#47399565)
        The point of airport security isn't to stop terrorists. It's to calm and reassure the public. After every major airliner accident, there's a drop in airline travel. (Least there was back when we'd have 2-3 commercial airliner crashes a year. We're now to the point where it's so safe we go 2-5 years between accidents.) How do you think these people are traveling if they're too scared to fly? Some of them just stay home, but most of them travel by car. Where they are more likely to die in a car accident than from a terrorist attack.

        So the point of airport security is literally security theater. Show the public, "Hey we're doing something to stop those terrorists, so it's safe to fly!" When the real goal is to stop people from getting themselves killed while driving because they're too scared of terrorists to fly.

        Unfortunately, the people running the TSA never got the memo and are taking their jobs way too seriously.

        That said, every time I've had a phone or laptop die from a drained battery, I've been able to turn it on, and it'll power up for at least 5-30 seconds before sensing the low battery and automatically powering off again. This is due to an intentional safety feature of Li-ion batteries - if you drain them too much, they can explode when charged. So devices are designed to shut off long before the battery reaches this point, and consequently there's always enough juice left to briefly turn the device back on again. The only way you can get to a state where the device literally will not power on is if you drain the battery, then let the device sit there for weeks or months so that it self-discharges below the voltage where the device will refuse to use the battery at all. So the guy whose phone dies while traveling shouldn't be affected by this policy change at all (unless the TSA decides to be assholes and require you to demonstrate something more than the phone booting, while not providing a standard microUSB charger).
      • TSA employment is for people who want to be bullies but don't have the physical or mental power to do it on their own....

      • A family acquaintance - let's call him "Joe" - worked as an airport screener. This is a true story: I was personally in the room when Joe was complaining to my dad that he'd been fired.

        They run periodic checks where an undercover agent tries to smuggle contraband onto a plane. When questioned after the fact, Joe didn't understand why everyone was upset that he'd allowed a disassembled rifle through screening: "but it was in pieces! He couldn't have done anything with it!". "But Joe, he could've taken it into a bathroom and put it together, couldn't he?", followed by an expression of horror creeping across his face as the realization sank in.

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:09AM (#47398391)

    If you can't power the things up there is no way to tell what they actually are.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:12AM (#47398401) Homepage Journal

      If you can't power the things up there is no way to tell what they actually are.

      If the TSA worked for us, they'd have a power supply at the checkpoint so you can prove that your device works even if the battery is dead.

      • Or maybe just throw away the battery if its dead. A scan should reveal any further threat.
        • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:27AM (#47398495) Homepage

          Right because having your fucking phone die at the airport isn't inconvenient enough; you clearly are not having a bad enough day that you can't easily call people when you reach your destination, or get notices about flight delays on your way to the you need to lose your battery too! Another $50 on your trip asshole for doing something boneheaded that only ever was a problem for you before now.

          Certainly there are so vanishingly few legitimate reasons a persons phone would be discharged.... that there wont be too many false positives with this....never. I am sure they will mostly only inconvinence terrorists, and not, so many people as to justify maybe....a full time position or two at each airport.

          • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:45AM (#47398623)

            50$? Wait.. you're assuming that you can remove the battery from your phone, right?

            That's a good one.

            REALLY inconvinient if you have an iPhone....

          • Oh, don't worry, citizen! If you own a phone that still has a swappable battery, it's probably ancient junk anyway, so throwing it away is just helping you out!

            Now... about keeping your AppleCare after the TSA's tech experts remove your iPhone battery...
          • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:50AM (#47398671)

            Certainly there are so vanishingly few legitimate reasons a persons phone would be discharged...

            Certainly there are far fewer reasons a person would want to go to the USA anymore. Or, rather, people value their dignity more than US culture; That you continue to have a tourism industry is beyond belief. Further, with Germany setting the standard for tearing US businesses out of their public infrastructure [] I'd be surprised if the US continues be a player in international business for much longer.

            Anyway, to answer your question about why my phone would be discharged, it's because I'm forced to wait for three hours in the damn departure lounge because getting through security takes an age. I pass the time by browsing the internet, listening to music, watching streaming video... On my phone.

      • by jeIIomizer ( 3670945 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:26AM (#47398487)

        The TSA cannot work for us, because their existence violates the highest law of the land. Slightly 'improving' the situation would never change that simple fact.

      • This would not prove that the battery has not been replaced with explosives.

      • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:01AM (#47398751) Homepage
        You're just not thinking outside the box enough. *Finally* we have a way of getting rid of all all of our broken electronics without having to pay those exhorbitant recycling fees or sneaking out in the dead of night to dump it at some ad-hoc "landfill" site!

        "Sorry, officer, I must have forgotten to charge that one too... here you go! Shall we try this... um..." *wipes dust off logo* ...Compaq now, or just move on to the next crate?"
    • by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:12AM (#47398407)
      And if I can power my laptop up (for 5 minutes should be good enough), how can they tell that 90% of battery is not packed with explosives?
      • Becuase the idea is to knock the low hanging fruit from the tree. Anybody who really wanted to blow up a airplane could. Thankfully it has been mostly half crazy idots who have been trying to do this. Plese note I don't know if I support the policy. I can understand where it is comming from but one has to balance out safty, privicy, and convience. I think the balance has already slid to far to the saty side.

        • Which strongly suggests the existence of the TSA is pointless. As you say, and the professionals all agree - anyone competent who wants to blow up a plane will be able to do so unless stopped long before they get to the airport (and the NSA claims hey really truly have done so, but you'll have to trust us on that because we can't reveal the evidence). Meanwhile the TSA can't even catch the loonies who try to blow up their shoes and underwear - those have all been stopped by their own incompetence and/or ot

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:04AM (#47398779) Journal
          What I find curious (honestly, both from the TSA's side, and from the terrorists' side, to the degree that they aren't simply far less common than popularly believed), is how dead-set everyone is on fighting the 'last war' so to speak.

          Given the (mostly low-lethality, albeit with occasional exceptions that really sucked for a specific hostage) history of aircraft hijacking [], being the first to radically change the game before anybody knew that the game had changed (strictly speaking, the attempt occurred across 3 planes simultaneously; but with limited cross-communication, each was essentially 'first' for the purposes of that aircraft, and the one where that information isolation broke down was the one that was forcibly crash-landed and never made it to target) was a ruthless and clever move. The historical rule had always been 'Hijacking, that sucks; but within a few days, and with the death of very few passengers, the matter will be wrapped up', and so heroics simply didn't make much sense.

          Now that everyone knows that that isn't the case, you pretty much have to be confident that you have the manpower to overwhelm an entire aircraft full of people who expect you to kill them even if they do cooperate, as well as national air-defense assets that expect you to kill everyone, and worse, if they don't shoot you down. Aircraft are now largely targets that are only as useful as their direct destruction is.

          Given that, it's downright weird that both the TSA, and at least the dumber terrorist types, have remained fixated on airplanes, despite the fact that there are far softer targets, vastly more numerous and harder to secure, all over the place. At this point, hitting a TSA security line, rather than trying to pass through it, or just skipping that entirely and turning a good, honest, domestically available, AR-15 on a little-league crowd somewhere in Iowa would be at least as scary and way easier...
      • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:47AM (#47398641) Homepage Journal

        Because nobody could ever hook up an ARM SBC to the LVDS connector on a 17" laptop and play a video to fake a boot sequence that would fool a telemarketer in purple gloves, leaving the rest of the case available for whatever can be molded into plastic.

        Because TSA is there to protect us from imbicilic terrorists, even though 9/11 was orchestrated by degreed engineers, physicians, etc.?

        Or just maybe it's not about terrorists but rather obedience conditioning, and they need a new rule once in a while to keep the people regressing (from presumption of Constitutional rights).

        Only one of those hypotheses fits the data.

    • Yeah, but if we all have to pull out and power up a tablet, computer, MP3 player, and phone, that's gonna slow down the line a bit.
      • by qbast ( 1265706 )
        Well, it is your problem if you miss the flight, not theirs. And don't act as if you are in great hurry, they might take you for more in-depth check just for the hell of it.
    • Just because you can power a device up does not mean it has not been modified.

      Anyone with even moderate skills could EASILY take an off the shelf business class laptop, remove 3/4 of the guts of it, replace it with a tiny SOC, fill the case with explosive, and the laptop would boot and display and work just fine. The only way to know it was modified would be to look in detail* at the system specs and compare to an online DB - do you honestly think that TSA is going to do this? Replace all of above with phon

      • Especially since many newer laptops [] are like 3/4 filled with batteries anyway. The pictured laptop is a Macbook Air. There's plenty of room in there to house an actually fully functional laptop with the same specs but partially reduced battery life, and hide other stuff in there.
      • by qbast ( 1265706 )

        I honestly do not get what this "powering on of electronics" is supposed to achieve. Only the most idiotic of plots would be foiled by this.

        - please turn on the laptop
        - [it powers up, truecrypt prompt shows up]
        - come with me please, you have been randomly selected for additional screening

    • I thought that's what those x-ray machines were for?

      Besides, there is a lot of empty space inside some laptops. If they're worried about someone putting a bomb inside a laptop that won't boot then they should be equally worried about someone putting one inside a laptop that will.

    • If you can't power the things up there is no way to tell what they actually are.

      Unless a given widget has heroic inrush current on start, if you can power the thing up there is no way to tell whether it's the genuine article or the genuine article with a teeny li-poly cell(or even a higher-density lithium primary cell, no need to recharge in paradise after all...) providing ~10 minutes of runtime and leaving most of the battery volume for even more energetic contents...

    • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
      sad anyone has the misconception these kinds of policies help. The goal of these policies is to make people who don't understand how easy it is to get whatever you want on an airplane to feel safe. You are not safer (it is just security theater), and you are just enabling your rights being taken away by thinking this is helping.
  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:12AM (#47398403)

    I can see this sucking for people who kill their battery browsing Slashdot while waiting for their flight.

  • That'll show 'em! (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:17AM (#47398435) Journal
    Short of 'eh, just buy a display model on ebay and pack it full of semtex, the TSA won't notice...' slacker-terrorist stuff, how useful is the 'turn it on' test?

    With the relentless demand for miniaturization and battery life, most consumer electronics should be able to get enough power to boot-and-display-innocence out of a battery pack markedly smaller than their real one, even without further clever surgery. In the case of products that have substantial spec variations available in the same chassis (like most 'workstation' laptops) or very similar ones(most cellphone flavors that have a high-end and a cheap-seats variant that share a design language, and often a number of parts), the slightly more adept attacker has even more room, literally, to build a low-drain device and its teeny battery into the chassis designed to run a fairly firebreathing set of components for a couple of hours.

    Does the TSA expect that most of their enemies are as dumb as they are, or is this a 'well, it isn't worth much; but it's easy to impose so it's probably worth what you pay...' measure?
  • Security assets have uncovered an insidious plot to disguise explosive-carrying Mujahideen as elderly folks who statistically receive less scrutiny at pre-boarding ceremonies.

    Yep, traveling with Granny might hinder your ability to make connecting flights.

  • by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:20AM (#47398447)

    Somehow I don't think the TSA will allow people to power up their device with the charging cable if the battery is dead.

    • Sure they will. How else will NSA hot-drop spyware on every single device that leaves/enters the country?
      • As in people will have to use the officially TSA-provided charger cable. Of course. Reaching into your backpack while three humongous, and absurdly inconsiderate TSA footmen are looking over your shoulder might be considered offensive, outright dangerous, criminally insane, HE'S GOT A GUN! SHOOT HIM!
  • Is this a new rule?
    I've been asked before to power up my SLR when going through the security check.
    It never happened with any other device, so I always thought it was some particular feature of the SLR which made it seem like evil stuff to the scanners.

    I believe this already happened in Europe and Asia, so I can't say if they weren't doing this in the US before.
    In the paranoid minds of the Airport security personel it actually makes sense. From a scan it's impossible to distinguish legitimate circuitry from

  • oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:25AM (#47398481)
  • by magamiako1 ( 1026318 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:29AM (#47398519)
    As another poster stated, this is only on certain international flights originating from certain countries--and in addition to that, I'm sure you can power your phone off once you've powered it on for them.

    While this could be for another form of 'tracking' with cell phone tracking technologies (which exist), I feel it would be impossible to know just from cell phone identification what a person intends to do.

    So I suspect it's nothing more than "Ensure that the phone is not a bomb in disguise".
  • Does anyone really believe the next great air-to-ground attack is going to resemble the last one?

    The assumption that folks of Arabian descent who harbor ill will for the West would use a commercial jet is at best security theatre, and at worst, unimaginable incompetence.

    Small aircraft leave and land at airports thousands of times a day with little or no TSA interaction, or imagine three drones leaving residential garages simultaneously on Superbowl Sunday...why would they concentrate their rather scatte

  • My question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:33AM (#47398537) Journal

    In theory if you can't get through the security check you are allowed to leave with your property. In practice people have been prevented from doing so.

    If someone does arrive at the security checkpoint with a $600 dollar tablet that happens to have a dead battery, for their $130 flight is the TSA going to let them just leave?

    • Isn't part of the problem caused by checked baggage? They don't like when you check baggage and then decide not to get on the plane.

  • My first ever trip to the US (back in 2010), I was asked to power on my laptop going through security. In fact, while researching the trip IIRC the airline website even called this out as a specific to precaution to make sure your devices were charged in case you were asked to prove they worked. I wasn't asked on my second and third trips, so it must have only been sporadic ("additional screening" type thing). I would definitely be a bit time consuming to check all devices for all passengers, if that is th
  • by janoc ( 699997 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:38AM (#47398571)

    I do wonder how this is going to stop someone from smuggling an explosive on board. It is vastly easier to conceal some nasty payload inside of a bulky laptop than inside of a battery. And it could still even work as a laptop - a brick of a plastic explosive the size of a disk drive or a secondary battery would be enough to cause a huge problem on board, without preventing the laptop from booting up and working.

    And that is still assuming someone would actually want to bother with this - the guy with explosive underpants certainly didn't need a working battery ...

    Mind boggling stupidity.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:52AM (#47398685) Homepage Journal
    If you have a vibrator in your luggage you'll have a better-than-average chance of being asked to turn that on, too. If you pack the biggest one you can find in your carry-on right next to your cell phone, they might not even notice your cell phone.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @11:36AM (#47399949)

      True story:

      My wife and I went through a checkpoint with a vibrator in carry-on. We do this all the time, but on this trip, the bag was flagged for inspection. Well, first they ran it through the X-ray two more times. When they couldn't figure out what they were seeing, they had to open the bag.

      The smurf pawed through everything in the bag and found the vibrator, which apparently was what caused the alarm. He held it up and said, "I don't know what this is, but it looks like a knife on the X-ray."

      We were both thinking, "You don't know what that is? Your poor wife..."

      The smurf then ran his bomb residue swipe over the vibrator and his gloves. As the apparatus was not fitted with chemical explosives, just explosively good vibrations, we were soon free to go.

  • Real TSA Motivations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrLogic17 ( 233498 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:56AM (#47398713) Journal

    I'm starting to think that the TSA's real motivation is to slowly put all of the airlines out of business.
    If so, they're going to be one of the most successful covert operations in history.

  • But you can still (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:11AM (#47398835)
    ... bring all the thermite, magnesium tape, and calcium carbide you want to on in carry-on luggage.
  • by AttillaTheNun ( 618721 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:50AM (#47399103)

    Why dance around the issues with the security facade? If the U.S. would just flat out block all incoming traffic it would be a win-win for everyone involved, as the rest of us can plan accordingly and get on with our lives.

  • by ThePeices ( 635180 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @05:46PM (#47403167)

    I live in the Southern Hemisphere. Im not a terrorist, im a tourist looking for a holiday this year. Id love to come to the USA for a holiday, to go and see the sights and generally enjoy a holiday in a country full of history and things to see and do. ( love to see NY, the Grand Canyon, the science museums etc)

    But this TSA absurdity is so fucked up, so scary and frightening, you couldnt pay me to holiday there.
    There is no way in hell im going to subject myself to the indignity, radiation exposure, nude body scanning, device seizure and random harassment of Security Theatre in the US.
    Fuck that shit.

    Ill go be a tourist and spend my money in another country.

  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer&earthlink,net> on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:04PM (#47404291)

    Some day when I have enough time and money I plan on taking an airplane trip with no luggage. I'd show up at the check in counter with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why? Just so I could see what they'd do.

    Think about how odd that would look. No cell phone, no key ring, not even a tooth brush. I wouldn't wear anything out of the ordinary, no "Potential Terrorist" t-shirt. I'd just wear what I normally do, running shoes, slacks, polo shirt. I normally keep a knife on my belt but I'd leave that at home, maybe even leave the belt too.

    As much as people will claim otherwise you are not required to have identifying documents to board a plane when traveling domestically. International travel you do but not within the USA. I'm thinking I might leave my ID at home too.

    What would this prove? I'm not sure but it would be an interesting experiment. I am just curious how the TSA would respond to someone that acts so far out of the ordinary but also fits no norm of a threatening person.

    If anyone should ask me about my plans I'd probably just say I'm going shopping. I need some new clothes so I didn't see the need to pack any. I'm thinking that to make it additionally frustrating for them I'd leave not only my ID at home but any credit cards or anything else that might have my name on it besides my boarding pass. I would not lie about who I am and would not refuse to give my name or any other detail. I'm just a guy that wants to go on a shopping trip and I like to pay in cash.

    I think that they would not let me on the plane.

    One problem with my experiment is that I'd like to document the experiment but I'd have nothing to record with. I'd have to go by memory, or write everything down. No doubt that if I did do this that someone would say, "Photos or it didn't happen!"

    The thing is that if the TSA keeps up with their security theater, and the airlines charge for every piece of luggage a person brings, then what I propose as an experiment may become the preferred way to vacation. It would remove a lot of hassle that way.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.