That said, I've actually had different iPad experiences based on the particular iPad case I used at the time. n = oh, about 4, so take this with a grain of salt. But when I used a generic, black leather case, I had no problems leaving it in the bag. After awhile I became a bit more stylish, and I bought a case resembling an old-school composition notepad (by Portenzo, makers of awesome iPad cases). That flashy little number got my bag searched on a consistent basis, until I developed the good sense to just take it out of the bag and put it in a separate bin. Seems that the case is just clever and novel enough to set off the "This guy is up to something" alarm with TSA agents.
All of which makes me think that they're looking for anomalies. If something becomes standard enough, they gradually start to let it slip into the background. If they've never seen something before, they'll on it like flies on a dungheap. To me, this seems like a frighteningly simplistic security stance -- but what do I know?
I overheard one TSA agent mentoring another on the x-ray machine just a couple days after the iPad 2 was available. The first TSA agent got confused looking at the new iPad2, and the second agent explained how many batteries each had. I overheard something like "iPad 1 had 2 batteries and the iPad 2 had 3, and the batteries should be in these spots." Did you know there were multiple batteries a few days after shipping?
I was impressed. My expectations were low to begin with, but the second TSA agent had legitimate technical knowledge.
Edit: I'm not supporting TSA or saying this is the right approach. This anecdote seemed to support your supposition for how they screened items. I still was impressed an x-ray tech knew the insides of an iPad 2 better than even engadget. Thank you for making your point, though :)
Bruce Schneier does a much better job explaining this phenomenon than I can ever hope to. But essentially, there's a good argument to be made that totally random searches are superior to fingerprint searches. Terrorists operate on probabilistic scenario analysis. They will only attempt a plot if they're close to 100% sure that they can pull it off, because a failure embarrasses them in the eyes of their sympathizers and would-be financial benefactors. It makes them look like amateurs, and nobody wants to fund an amateurish organization. So even doing something like randomly screening every Nth passenger (where N changes daily) inherently reduces the odds of success by a fixed daily percentage. Terrorists are more scared of dice rolls than they are of fingerprint searches.
I'm no security expert, and for all I know, some combination of random searches and fingerprint searches is the optimal portfolio. I can, at least, understand the logic there, and it makes some sense. But focusing solely on fingerprints creates loopholes everywhere else. And it seems that the TSA has become more and more laser-focused on fingerprints in recent years.
I want to say it works like a bomb but...
Whatever the case, one thing does seem fairly clear: that the Israeli investment in people, rather than machines, seems to be paying a good dividend. And I'm tempted to say that we'd be better off staffing airports with better people and slightly older / less intrusive machines, rather than cutting-edge machines and bottom-of-the-barrel staff.
It seems that nobody worries about phones and kindles, and anything that is laptop-sized has to come out. The iPad seems to be the point where the confusion starts.
Considering how popular the iPad is, it would be nice if there was a consistent, definitive answer.
The "metric system of security theater"?
The iPad has been examined several times (in particular, the first couple of weeks after release), whereas the laptop has only been inspected going into a State Department building.
"Please boot the laptop so that I can see that it works normally," was a bit of a problem because it booted so fast off of the SSD. I had to restart 3 times to convince them that it was normal. The first two times, the guard thought I had just done a sleep/wake cycle.
The rules are stupid, arbitrary, pointless, and irritating, but hard to follow? No.
You have to give people the impression that you are doing something, and with rules, essentially the reason is security theatre.
Also, the rules are not followed with any sort of consistency. I've forgotten to take that Ziploc baggie of liquids out of my carry-on so many times and not been questioned about it that I hardly even try to remember any more.
Besides, rules just change depending on the airport/country, simple as that. I've had situations where I've been asked to take out "all electronic devices" (phones, tablets, ipods, I had like ten of those). In other cases, I passed with the laptop still inside (or even a bottle of water in my jacket ! I'm definitely a terrorist).
I wonder why people care about this, though. Can't you just accept that you will spend five or ten minutes taking out your laptop ?
I find the interdiction of liquid/razors much more annoying, because it actually costs me money. The inconvenience of empty your bag is pretty harmless.
If you've never been through Ben Gurion or any Israeli checkpoints, it's a real experience. They are very thorough, sometimes requiring items be disassembled as far as is possible without tools. I don't find it annoying though, it's for everyone's safety and they are very professional. I understand that the main purpose of the checks is to allow them to observe your behaviour and reactions. They know that even with all their check stuff can get through, so they put a strong emphasis on psychological profiling. Honestly, that makes me less upset about the checks themselves. If I have confidence these people really do know what they are doing, and it is effective, then I will put up with the procedure even if it's mainly a ruse. The problem with the TSA is the public isn't confident that the procedures are effective, so if thats the case who wants to put up with the process?
Number of times air travel kept safe by TSA: zero.
Please show me the list of incidents they have saved anyone from. It would be a huge public relations bonus so that list must be somewhere right? I mean you cannot take hundreds of millions of dollars and criminally hassle that many people without results - or can you?
What you are saying is they are awesome at stopping invisible pink elephants, they just cannot show them to us because they are invisible.
Every place in the USA has city, county, state and federal police with incredible laws that let they do almost anything they want, yet there is still crime. Somehow the TSA magically has no crime to show for their presence.
It's so common they don't even bother doing a press release anymore. Sometimes they write about interesting finds on their blog:
"Over 1,200 firearms were discovered at TSA checkpoints across the nation in 2011. Many guns are found loaded with rounds in the chamber. Most passengers simply state they forgot they had a gun in their bag."
"Small chunks of C4 explosives were found in passenger’s checked luggage in Yuma (YUM). Believe it or not, he was brining it home to show his family."
Not convinced this really makes travel safer, but they do find a lot of stuff...
They stop about 20 to 30 handguns each week. I don't know how many guns they don't stop.
Some of those are loaded. TSA doesn't care about handguns in checked in baggage, they even advise people how to travel with guns. They do care about handguns in carry on bags.
I mean since they are seizing thousands of nailclippers each month across the country and then auctioning them, they must be seizing the handguns too.
This articles says they don't sell the handguns (perhaps that varies by state?): http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46934445/ns/local_news-lancaster...
looking at the "Week in Review" posts you see the number of guns, handily broken down into loaded and unloaded. The charts list how many guns had a round chambered.
I have no idea how many people the TSA screen each week; nor how many guns make it through screening; nor whether any of the people trying to take guns on board a plane have any intent to harm people.
Hey, Sysadmin person, prove why we should keep paying you! You sit here all day doing things, and yet nothing has happened to our servers since you got here. Why do we need you?
1. Wait for a server hdd to crash, and tell people that they suffered no interruptions because he had the foresight to do disk mirroring on the servers.
2. Wait for somebody to do 'rm -rf' on an important dir on their laptop, and help them recover from the hourly backup procedure he'd implemented on the day he joined the company (this has happened in a company i've worked).
Plus quoting the end of the article :
He said that the laptop rule is about appearances, giving people a sense that something is being done to protect them. “Security theater,” he called it.
Even if what TSA does is just a "security theatre", it must be a deterrent to atleast the less determined person intending to do harm.
So you cannot easily make a statement saying TSA doesn't keep air travel safe.
1. Hardening cockpit doors and policies that keep travelers away from the cockpit.
2. Travelers fight. Both the Shoe Bomber and the Underwear Bomber were discovered and foiled by travelers who have learned that resistance is the difference between life and death.
Frankly, TSA could be replaced by private security firms today and air security would not significantly change.