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The TSA is testing new ways to make airport security even worse

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Airports Scramble To Address Long Security Lines Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Airport security: two words that can strike dread into the heart of any traveler. Largely due to the slow process of checking your bags, along with the added hassles of emptying pockets and removing shoes, belts, coats, and laptops into extra bins.

But there’s good news! According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the TSA is looking to make that process even more complicated by requiring passengers to remove more items from their bags at the security checkpoint. To be fair, the changes aren’t being done to slow down travelers — rather they’re due to the increase in passengers trying to cram as much stuff into carry-on bags as possible (a separate issue caused by airlines charging expensive fees to check bags), TSA screeners are having problems reading X-rays due to the cluttered contents.

To that end, the TSA is looking to add items to the list of things that must be placed in separate bins. The procedures are still getting tested, but current proposals have suggested forcing passengers to remove all food and paper from their bags, in addition to laptops or other large electronics. According to Darby LaJoye, the assistant administrator for security operations at the TSA, the changes aren’t due to a concern over any one item — no one really thinks your apple is a bomb — but about figuring out a way to get more stuff out of bags for faster X-rays. According to The Wall Street Journal, which items are required to be removed could change from airport by airport or on a line-by-line basis. Compliance might be optional for some items, with the downside that not-removing items could make you more likely to be slowed down with a manual search.

It makes sense in a way, given that TSA staff must be able to identify all the items in a bag and manually check if something looks unsafe. But the TSA is hoping that the new rules won’t add to people’s time in line, under the assumption that the time lost removing stuff from bags will be made up in faster X-ray scans. As someone who has spent time in an airport security line before, I would posit that this is an optimistic outlook that borders on naïvety regarding human nature.

Members of the TSA Precheck program (which requires an $85 application fee that must be renewed every five years and is granted or denied solely at the TSA’s discretion) likely won’t be seeing the changes.

The TSA is currently running small-scale trials of the changes in airports in Colorado Springs, Boise, Lubbock, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Boston, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, with changes set to be finalized in the coming weeks, with a goal of putting the new rules in place after the summer travel season ends.