June 2, 2017

The TSA will now flip through your anarchist literature

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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.

The Sacramento Bee’s Tony Bizjak reports that the procedure, which is being officially tested at a number of major airports, but also informally at airports including Sacramento International, will enable screeners to more closely examine books, magazines, and certain food items, which “can look similar to explosives when going through the X-ray machine.” While the tests aren’t related to the recently proposed laptop ban for passengers on international flights—reported, of course, following our president’s disclosure of certain classified intelligence to certain Russian officials in a certain now-infamous meeting—-they seem to be part of evolving security initiatives that will surely reignite debate about peoples’ right to privacy.

TSA officials have of course denied that screeners will use the new protocols to profile passengers based on what they’re reading. TSA official Carrie Harmon told Bizjak that screeners may now “fan” through books “to see if anything is hidden… but screeners are not checking to see what people are reading.”

Still, the measures are bound to raise alarm. Roxane Gay raised a hubbub earlier this year when she was asked by airport security to remove books from her bag (she refused). Julie Sze, a passenger who encountered the new screening protocol in Sacramento this week, told Bizjak that being forced to empty her bag “feels personal on a whole different level.”

 

 

Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.

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