The Real Reason Why You Must Remove Your Devices at TSA Security

by SharonKurheg

If you have TSA PreCheck, you’ve been vetted by the government and deemed to be a safe risk to go through the security checkpoint without a whole lot of rigamarole. With that, you’re able to go through security without removing your:

  • Shoes
  • Belt
  • Light jacket
  • Bag o’ liquids
  • Laptop & other electronic devices larger than a cell phone

You just have to empty your pockets, put your bags (and coat, as necessary) on the conveyor belt, go through the scanner, and if you have SSSS on your boarding pass (Here’s how to hopefully stop that, if it happens to you a lot), or get pulled for a random swab test (here’s how to help avoid getting a false positive), you can usually go on your merry way fairly quickly.

Joe and I have had PreCheck since its very early days I do have to admit that being considered a “trusted traveler” has been a godsend. We travel enough where, over the years, it’s saved us literally hours upon hours of standing on the “regular” line.

Of course, not everyone has TSA PreCheck; most people don’t (at last count, about 15 million of us do. But that leaves about 317 million PreCheckless people in the U.S.). Everyone has their own reasons for not; it usually boils down to 2 things:

  • They don’t travel enough to warrant it
  • Getting it for the whole family would be too cost-prohibitive (and/or they don’t have the “right” credit cards, like these, that’ll pay the fee)

Whatever a person’s reasons for not having PreCheck, it’s their own reasons and that’s OK. Hopefully when they get to the checkpoint, they’ve prepared enough to be able to get through as quickly and easily as possible (here are some pointers). Regardless though, they’ll still have to do all that “removing” of their stuff.

Some of the things you have to remove at the checkpoint are, if not common knowledge, at least common sense. Here’s a brief history of each and why you have to remove them all:

Bag o’liquids

“Bag o’liquids” is just my name for your 3-1-1 bag of liquids (3oz [well, really 3.4oz. That’s 100 milliliters] containers packed into one 1qt Ziploc bag). That requirement began in August, 2006, after terrorists plotted to detonate liquid explosives carried onboard at least 10 airliners traveling from the UK to United States and Canada. British Police foil the plot. At first NO liquids, gels, etc. were allowed on planes. Breast milk was allowed, that was about it (and THAT had to be tasted by the passenger in front of security officials). About a month later, they began the 3-1-1 rule that continues today (save for this one change).

Some other interesting tidbits about that bag o’liquids:


This one was a “thing” even before 9/11 (metal detectors at airports started in 1970, to be exact, at New Orleans Int’l. By 1974, they were required at all U.S. airports). Belt buckles are frequently made of metal. A large amount of metal is going to set off the metal detector. If the metal detector alarm goes off, you’re going to have to go through a pat down. So better to just remove the belt, no? 😉


TSA began requiring passengers to remove their coats/jackets/hoodies (unless it’s worn as a shirt) in 2004.

Passengers aged 75 and older are not required to remove their light jacket, such as a sweater/thin windbreaker (but their coat still has to come off).


We might’ve been able to get away with keeping our shoes on, but just 3 months and change after 9/11, Richard Reid, better known as the shoe bomber, tried to detonate an explosive device in the heels of his shoes while on a trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to Miami. He failed (he was overtaken by his fellow passengers. The Boeing 767 was directed to Boston-Logan). From that point onward, TSA started randomly checking peoples’ shoes as they went through security, but by 2006, based on intelligence pointing to a continuing threat, everyone had to remove their footwear.

Passengers aged 75 and older are not required to take their shoes off.

Computers & other electronics

You’d think that having to take computers, tablets, etc. out of your bag would be because of the metal issue, right? It would set off the metal detectors. That’s a part of it, but there’s more than just that.

It turns out that the current scanners at airport security checkpoints aren’t able to ‘see’ through electronics’ large and dense battery and other components of the device. The same goes for power cords and other devices such as tablets and cameras. If they can’t see everything in the bag, that’s not safe. So they ask non-vetted, “non PreCheck” passengers to remove those items from their carry-on and personal bags, so they can get a better look at what’s in the bag. If they left the electronics inside the bag, they’d have to hand check every bag with electronics in it. That would REALLY slow down the line. And can you imagine how slowly the line went when this guy and his bright idea tried to go through the line and was caught?

This is the same reason why TSA sometimes asks people to remove these items from their bags.

And because of the fear of explosives being hidden in electronics, led to electronic devices that could not be turned on being confiscated by the TSA in 2014.

And now you know. :-)Oh, and if you leave your electronics at the TSA checkpoint by mistake? (It happens ALL the time), this might help.

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