Could air travelers be forced to expose their reading materials to TSA screeners?

Travelers line up at a security screening checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport. The Transportation Security Administration briefly tested out a new procedure that required passengers to remove reading material from their bags.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

For the time being, air travelers no longer have to fear that the books, magazines and other reading material in their carry-on bags will be exposed to the public in the airport security line.

The Transportation Security Administration had briefly tested out a new screening procedure at several airports that required travelers to pull out all books and other literature from carry-on bags and place in a separate bin at the checkpoint line.

TSA officials said the test was meant to make it easier for the X-ray screener to see what items are being carried in the bags and to see if hollowed-out books are being used to conceal weapons or drugs.


In an interview on Fox News in May, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said travelers are stuffing more belongings in their carry-on bags to avoid the checked-bag fees.

“So the more you stuff in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what’s in those bags through the monitors, they can’t tell what’s in the bags anymore,” he said.

The TSA test raised objections by ACLU lawyers who said forcing travelers to expose their reading material at the airport raises privacy concerns.

In a blog post, ACLU senior analyst Jay Stanley said that travelers who carry literature written in Arabic, self-help books on personal topics or even copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey” could be embarrassed or spark extra scrutiny if the reading material is pulled out for others to see.

Although TSA said it has ended the test, Kelly hinted that the enhanced screening procedure could be expanded nationwide. He told Fox News that such tests are typically used to work out tactics and procedures on a small scale before expanding the screening process nationwide.


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