Do Not Force Passengers to Remove Books from Carry-On Luggage

Target: Huban A. Gowadia, Acting Administrator, Transportation Security Administration

Goal: Do not violate passengers’ privacy by forcing them to reveal what they are reading when passing through airport security.

Discrimination, the violation of privacy, and the violations of human rights that may follow are all causes for concern in regard to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to make airline passengers remove books from their carry-on luggage. TSA officials say the policy is intended simply to allow airport security to flip through the pages and ensure that nothing is hidden inside. But the American Civil Liberties Union released an analysis that notes the dangers of forcing people to reveal what they are reading — passengers carrying, for instance, a book in Arabic or other foreign language, or a book that seems critical of the Trump administration, may have to face unjust consequences because of their reading material.

Academics are especially concerned, since they often carry books in a variety of languages, research material that expresses viewpoints they do not agree with, or pre-published material for which privacy is even more of an issue. More than that, though, as the ACLU report states, “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. Even someone reading a best-seller like 50 Shades of Grey or a mild self-help book with a title such as ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’ might be shy about exposing his or her reading habits. And of course someone reading Arab or Muslim literature in today’s environment has all too much cause to worry about discrimination.” The matter is an issue of civil liberties.

There are memorable cases of discrimination in the past for exactly these reasons, like the college student who was detained over his Arabic flash cards, or the economics professor whose flight was delayed because a fellow passenger thought his mathematics equations were some sort of terrorist communication. This new policy would not make passengers safer, but would violate their rights and enable discrimination. Sign below to demand this policy be rejected.


Dear Adminstrator Gowadia,

The plan to require passengers to remove books from carry-on luggage is a violation of their rights far more than it is a protection. There is a long history in the U.S. of special protections surrounding the privacy of one’s reading habits, in state laws as well as the Supreme Court.

There is good reason for this type of protection. Already there have been incidents of passengers experiencing discrimination and even detainment because of assumptions that were made about what they were reading or writing. Those reading a book in a foreign language, for example, could be detained simply for that, like the college student who was detained because his flash cards were in Arabic. This policy is not a protection, but a violation of civil liberties. I urge you not to enact it.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

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  1. This is SO TOTALITARIAN – ORWELLIAN – and is a complete OUTRAGE!
    We MUST stand up against this TYRANNY!!!

  2. Gigi Middlebrook says:

    What is this Nazi Germany???? People we must rise up and fight the powers that be. It is time for all good people to come to the aid of their country.

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