Airport Security Takes a Sharp Turn

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced last Friday that it would begin allowing small sharp objects in airline passenger carry-ons again. The change will take effect on Dec. 22, just in time for the holiday rush. Some restrictions to the new rule apply--while scissors are now allowed, they can't be longer than four inches, and tools, such as screwdrivers, can't measure more than seven inches. The agency is even considering allowing knives and ice picks back on board.

The new focus of airport security screeners? Detecting explosives--something the TSA considers a greater threat than tweezers. Rather than screen every passenger, flyers would be selected at random to pass through new explosive-detection machines, which will be installed in over 150 U.S. airports by January. Officials are hopeful the new strategy of using unpredictable security patterns will confuse, and ultimately deter, would-be terrorists.

Other proposed security technologies include thermal imaging devices that can detect whether a passenger is running a fever, facial scanners (currently on trial at the Dubai airport), and "backscatter" X-ray machines that not only allow screeners to pick up ceramic and plastic weapons but that also sees through clothes. The backscatter is presently being tested at Heathrow Airport, and has been referred to as a "virtual strip search" by the ACLU. Biometric iris scans, like the one mentioned in our recent Letter From the Editor, are already being used in Orlando

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