TSA finds new way to humiliate and annoy passengers, prohibits shoe laces

Travelers still having nightmares over the delays caused by passengers who forgot to remove tweezers and matches from their carry-on luggage and the 3-1-1 liquid rules should prepare for the Transportation Security Administration’s new target: all shoe and boot laces.

Effective yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security banned all shoe laces aboard airplanes. That means everything from shoe laces for sneakers to even combat boots now must be checked. If you forget, prepare to surrender your shoe laces at the security checkpoint.

Even shoe laces purchased beyond the security checkpoint are forbidden on board. If you buy a pair of shoes or boots in the terminal, remove the laces and place them in the trash before boarding because you will not be allowed on the plane with the laces.

Chip Reese, assistant secretary of homeland security, offered this advice, “Save yourself the hassle and don’t bring shoe or boot laces to the airport.”

“That is something very easy to do as you pack your bag,” he said. “Wear slip on shoes or boots and then you don’t have to worry about it.”

The new restrictions are part of a security enhancement at the nation’s airports after the discovery by Vatican intelligence officials of a plot to strangle fight crewmembers using shoelaces.

In announcing the additional precautions, Homeland Security Secretary representatives said they were temporary, but he indicated that they would remain in place while the Transportation Security Administration determines a way to counter weaponized shoe laces.

A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman, Leila Whitford, said yesterday that the agency was still looking at how long the heightened restrictions would be in place. “We don’t have any indication as to when the restrictions will be lifted,” she said.

The shoelace ban has exceptions. All laces for Propulsion High shoes and Forever 21 Qupid Faux Leather boots are allowed, provided that passengers present them for inspection and are prepared to prove that the laces will fall apart if an attempt is made to use those laces as weapons. That does not mean passengers will be required to strangle someone with their laces as was the case in Britain yesterday.

The new American precautions are far less restrictive than those in Britain. At British airports, passengers traveling to the United States must endure trans-Atlantic flights without shoes or boots.

In other European countries, new security procedures varied. Spanish officials said that they would monitor passengers more closely but were not adding restrictions on shoe laces as only three people have been killed in their countries using shoe laces..

In Italy, passengers were also being screened more carefully. A spokesman for the transportation minister said Italy was “waiting to understand the situation in the U.K.” before issuing any rules restricting shoe laces.

The disruptions are likely to have the strongest effects on business travelers, who have grown used to keeping their shoe or boot laces.

Because airport security rules are constantly changing, the latest restrictions are expected to ease over time in the United States and in Britain.

Mr. Chertoff said the restrictions would “give us time to make adjustments in our current screening tactics.”

For example, the Transportation Security Administration eventually relented on tweezers and manicure scissors. Screeners were spending too much time taking them from passengers. So the administration decided those items did not pose enough of a risk to flying to warrant banning. Congress, which passed a law requiring the agency to screen for matches, repealed the measure for the same reason.

It is possible that the new restrictions on shoe laces will be similarly abandoned.

“The prohibited items list has been modified from time to time,” said an unnamed the Transportation Security Administration senior official “and the restrictions issued this morning represent the latest modification.”

She stated, “These new procedures were coordinated with the American Apparel & Footwear Association who voiced strenuous objections. Nike Shoes representatives argued all Nike shoes should be exempted from these new requirements; however, TSA personnel said they wouldn’t entertain any other exceptions at this time.