TSA is Powerless

by Colin Berkshire

The TSA has a new policy in place. When flying back to the USA your iPhone or smartphone must power on. If it is broken, or cannot power on it will be confiscated.

Ostensibly, the reason is that some indescribable person could put something bad into its diminutive case. Presumably these inoperable iPhones are a greater hazard than, say, a plug-in alarm clock or a 240/120V power converter (which pass through just fine without any testing.) Seems odd to me, but then I am no airport security expert.

What makes me think the TSA is mean-spirited is that they confiscate iPhones and smartphones that have dead batteries. That’s nearly evil.

Why doesn’t the TSA purchase an iPhone charger and a micro-USB charger? Instead of confiscating a $750 piece of electronics they could plug it into a charger and watch it power up…perhaps even allowing the traveler to keep it plugged in for 15 minutes to get a quick charge? Would the $20 per airport to buy a charger expense really break the budget of the TSA?

Well, the TSA has lots of money. On July 1 of this year they raised their fees from $2.50 per flight to $5.60 per flight segment. So it would take just 10 passengers at the new rate to buy an airport a convenience charger. Clearly they don’t lack money, so it must be that they lack compassion, common-sense, and concern for passengers.

Again, let’s stand back a moment…

The TSA has this worry that smartphones and iPhones may have something bad in them that other cary-on items do not. They decide that they need to see these iPhones power up. And, if they cannot see them power up then they will confiscate the device. Did they never, ever think of the idea of supplying just one charger per airport in case of dead batteries?

More and more often the government feels it is perfectly appropriate to seize assets for trivial or unrelated reasons. For example, if you loan your car out to a friend that then gets busted for pot possession they can take and keep your car. I get the idea that we need to control crime, but at some point doesn’t the government simply turn into a predatory monster? Where does this stop?