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Mailbag: Why Must I Take Off My Sweatshirt and Light Jacket at Security?

May 27, 2014 at 11:24 AM | by | ()

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Long lines and the intrusion on our privacy are no doubt two parts of what makes going through TSA security a frustrating experience. Compounding that latter part is the fact that many of the policies seem to either go against logic or contradict what we experience elsewhere in the world. For example, your shoes can stay on in Europe, but they must come off during standard screening in America. And there are plenty of other classic mind-blogging security head scratchers, such as this one.

But the biggest raise of the eyebrow might be that the TSA (sometimes) requires you to remove your light jacket or sweatshirt before you go through the x-ray scanner that has the capability of looking through things. If the scanners can see through us like Superman, why must we remove a jacket?

The answer is that, as we well know from various reports, the body scanners are not 100% effective. That statement is not necessarily a knock - they are supposedly the best technology we have at the moment - it's just a fact. The reason we need to remove our outer layers is the same reason we need to remove our belts: Thick material can prevent the scanners from fully penetrating, running the risk that something on someone's body could pass through unnoticed.

The rule of removing your outer layer at U.S. airports is not as universal as removing your computer or belt, but it is asked of passengers at a majority of them. Next time you're asked to do it right before stepping into an x-ray machine, take a deep breath and understand that you are presumably helping to aid the abilities of limited technology.

With that in mind, if you want ask a TSA agent why they routinely send people who aren't prechecked through the precheck line, we're still looking for a good explanation to that one.

[Photo: CMG Digital]

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