New TSA rules

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The TSA has changed their rules again. Here's what's allowed now:
  • Small amounts of Baby formula and breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling
  • Liquid prescription medicine with a name that matches the passengers ticket
  • Up to 5 oz. (148ml) of liquid or gel low blood sugar treatment
  • Up to 4 oz. of essential non-prescription liquid medications including saline solution, eye care products and KY jelly
  • Gel-filled bras and similar prostethics
  • Gel-filled wheelchair cushions
  • Life support and life sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs carried for medical reasons

Cause clearly nobody could ever put explosives in a saline container.

This is a balancing problem on two levels. Superficially, it's a simple security/convenience tradeoff. TSA would like you not to be able to bring anything on the plane but travellers won't stand for being deprived of their eye drops, K-Y (!) and wonderbras, so they have to make exceptions. However, the problem is that the list is now so long that it shouldn't be that hard to sneak your explosives in as one of the permitted items.

More important, though, is the higher level, which isn't a security/convenience tradeoff but rather an appearance of security/tradeoff. Since as a practical matter almost no screening methodology will work, the trick for the TSA is to find the level of incovenience that makes people feel like they're trying but aren't so annoyed they want TSA to scrap the entire program. I'd be very interested to know what decision procedure led to yes on K-Y but no on toothpaste.

5 Comments

The whole thing is utterly ridiculous. Prescription labels are not designed to be difficult to forge, and many of the other things on the list could be used to store liquid explosives. If they really believed banning liquids was necessary, they would have to stop these items, too.

Clearly what is going on is theater. They can't simply reverse their earlier absurd decision -- that would require admitting that they made a mistake -- so by placing arbitrary and worthless restrictions on what may and may not be brought, they can make it look as though there was some sort of security purpose in the original panic-based response.

There is no practical way to prevent the smuggling of explosives by banning particular arbitrarily selected items. It would be better if this was simply admitted and we moved on.

"I'd be very interested to know what decision procedure led to yes on K-Y but no on toothpaste."

What's the point of getting on an airplane if you don't join the mile high club :)

Post menapausal women use KY to alleviate the discomfort of vaginal dryness. I imagine there was such a woman among the decision makers who pointed out it's medecinal application.

Controlling the quantity of liquids makes things more difficult for the guy intending to produce peroxyacetone in the airplane toilet. The bombmaker using 5% HOOH and equally dilute acid previously would have been able to carry on an adequate amount of material in liter water-bottles with a few confederates. This will be harder to arrange only utilizing some combination of 1oz bottles labeled ampicillin and pairs of 3oz Wonderbra gell-pads.

Some people can't urinate and have to self catheterize, thus need a lubricant.

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