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TSA officials will not screen and search books separate from luggage during security checks before passengers board planes at airports across the country.
The agency announced the decision to end testing the practice at select airports at the end of June. Testing was being performed at two U.S. airports.
Many people criticized the book screenings, saying TSA agents could potentially choose passengers to search based on the titles and topics of their reading materials.
“Academics are unsurprisingly big readers, and since we don’t simply read for pleasure, we often read materials with which we disagree or which may be seen by others as offensive,” Henry Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said last month. “For instance, a scholar studying terrorism and its roots may well be reading -- and potentially carrying on a plane -- books that others might see as endorsing terrorism.”
Other critics said publicly disclosing reading material could feel like an invasion of privacy to some travelers.
“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,” said notes privacy expert Jay Stanley in an analysis of the TSA’s previous plan.
But the TSA has asserted the the book search, which has been terminated at test airports will not expand across the country as previously planned.
Passengers do not need to remove books from carry-on bags before sending luggage through X-ray machines.
“We’re always testing procedures to help stay ahead of our adversaries. We were testing the removal of books at two airport locations and the testing ran its course,” the TSA said in a news release. “We’re no longer testing and have no intentions of instituting those procedures.”
In the release, the TSA said it implemented the book screening test because “adversaries seem to know every trick in the book when it comes to concealing dangerous items, and books have been used in the past to conceal prohibited items.”
“We weren’t judging your books by their covers, just making sure nothing dangerous was inside,” TSA said.