That time the TSA started screening all paper products separately


Originally published at:


Was this just a particularly un-subtle advancement of the “steal people’s stuff and then sell it for cash” where they cut out all the messy middle bits, and just go straight for the “paper products?”


I keep wanting to write “unbelievable” but then Trumpland keeps proving me wrong.


Given how many people travel for business, it’s impressive that they figured out how to implement mass-industrial espionage.


That they even piloted this screening programme is disturbing on many levels.


Paper obviously has nothing to do with flight safety. Clearly an attempt at intelligence gathering outside the mission of TSA which is to:

“Protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”


Intelligence gathering, finding “subversive” material, adding to the atmosphere of intimidation, make-work to increase hours worked, etc.


Might have been looking for those ne’er-do-wells who have foreign language books.

Memo to self: don’t carry the pocket edition of the Voynich Manuscript in Kansas.


Maybe one of the TSA administrators suddenly heard of the existence of flash paper and thought it might be used to make a bomb?


I’ve often flown with multiple card decks (the Group Works Deck:Tools for Effective Meetings and Productive Groups social pattern language in particular) in my carry-on bags. At times they’ve been subject to secondary screening because on the X-ray they look “different than books,” so they say. It may be something about the density or coating, or the size.


Maybe they got a tip there was an LSD smuggling ring in Kansas?


It’s all fun and games to you hipsters until someone tries to smuggle on board a picture of a bomb.


My guess is that it’s not that they want to do something special to the paper - it’s that they want the paper out of the way of the other stuff they want to scan.

They’re probably tired of opening up bags because an X-ray of a stack of paperbacks looks very much like an X-ray of a stack of bricks of C-4.


Well… good thing I am poor and didn’t fly out of KCI. Wonder if they could discern something like Shadowrun sourcebooks full of weapons and hacker skills from the real world.


I don’t know.
Did Bannon tell Trump it was possible to bring down a plane with flash paper?


The BB article uses both scanning and screening to describe what happened. The linked article never mentions scanning.
Scanning is a completely different issue from screening.


“To protect the US transportation!”
“To disrupt the travels of our nation!”
“To denounce the evils of mad plane bombers!”
“To ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce!”
“TSA, x-ray those bags at the speed of light!”
“Surrender your liquids or miss your flight!”


Last spring, I flew with a box of business cards. Apparently, that box looked like something dangerous or suspicious, based on the reaction of the screening agent.

He advised me that next time I should put that sort of thing in an easily accessible place, rather than the bottom, of my carry-on. He had to basically unpack my bag to get to the item he wanted to check. In fact, he seemed more freaked out than the time I shoved all my cables and chargers into a tangle in my backpack.

I don’t know whether that’s new, because I’ve been flying with books for, well, forever. But maybe it was the fact that it was a perfect rectangle and not really book shaped.


A desperately needed LSD smuggling ring . . .


A block of paper and a block of plastic explosive look similar on the scanner for some reason. (I think similar density?)