July 5, 2017

Go ahead and bring those Howard Zinn books on your vacation, the TSA doesn’t care


Last month, we reported on a story that the TSA was going to start taking an interest in what books you were carrying in your luggage.

A new federal airport security protocol requiring TSA agents to examine passengers’ reading materials is raising questions about whether such screenings could lead to increased profiling on a religious or political basis.

As with most proposals from this administration, it was cause for alarm. And alarm was duly expressed, here by Julia Glum last week in Newsweek:

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a Friday blog post that the system could quickly become invasive.

“A person who is reading a book entitled ‘Overcoming Sexual Abuse’ or ‘Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction’ is not likely to want to plop that volume down on the conveyor belt for all to see. Even someone reading a bestseller like ‘50 Shades of Grey’ or a mild self-help book with a title such as ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’ might be shy about exposing his or her reading habits,” Stanley said. “And of course someone reading Arab or Muslim literature in today’s environment has all too much cause to worry about discrimination.”

Stanley pointed to a 2010 case the ACLU took up after a college student was detained for questioning because he had English-Arabic flash cards that included the word “bomb” in his pockets. The student in question, Nicholas George, ultimately won a $25,000 settlement in 2015, according to CBS News.

Well, in a rare instance of GOOD news, as Inside Higher Education reports, we no longer have to worry about agents checking out our reading material.

The Transportation Security Administration has abandoned a pilot program in which some passengers were asked to remove books from their carry-on luggage during screening. A spokeswoman for the agency said there are no plans to restore the pilot or to expand it.

So go ahead and pack up those Naomi Klein and Junot Díaz books; bring On Tyranny for your next beach read; heck, shove a copy of What We Do Now into your carry-on for each of your vacation cohorts. The TSA (much like rest of the administration) no longer cares about books!



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.