Are you planning to travel via commercial airliner this coming weekend for Easter or Passover? Well if you do, there’s a chance that you, like me, will question some of the seemingly illogical security measures you’re forced to go through.
We recently learned that the exceedingly dumb rules that force you to turn off all electronics at takeoff and landing are basically bullsh*t, so would you surprised to learn that another annoying aspect of air travel — having to remove your laptop from your bag at security checkpoints — also exists for basically no reason at all? Because that’s essentially it in a nutshell — we have been all forced to remove our laptops from our bags since 2011 so that we’ll “feel safe” when we travel.
And it took one doggedly persistent journalist named Matt Richtel months to get to the bottom of this. It’s was as if he were trying to get nuclear code info from the government or something.
As I did more reporting, the logic behind the rule grew as elusive as a free power outlet in the boarding area. Is size the issue? If so, security experts counter, today’s laptops are far thinner than they used to be.
Could it be because laptops, unlike tablet computers, have an easily removable battery compartment and hard drive that could be used to hide homemade bombs? But some netbooks and ultrabooks have similar compartments, and they don’t require separate screening. Strike two.
Perhaps, I thought, it’s because the circuitry of a laptop can be replaced with a device to send an electromagnetic signal to jam an airplane’s controls at takeoff or landing. But, as I soon learned, the same circuitry could be embedded just as easily in phones, watches or game players, all of which stay in the bag.
I was starting to feel like a Monty Python character, riding a pretend horse, clomping my coconut halves together to simulate the sound of horse hooves. A comical quest for a mythical grail.
And then, finally, after months of research, Richtel finally got someone affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security to spill the beans, though off the record.
Until I happened upon a security expert who asked that he not be identified because he has worked on related issues with the Department of Homeland Security. He said that the laptop rule is about appearances, giving people a sense that something is being done to protect them. “Security theater,” he called it.
So there you have it. Hope this doesn’t ruin the false sense of security you may have held about flying prior to reading this. (I’m lying — I totally don’t give a sh*t.)
(Pic via Shutterstock)