CDs, The Library and Airport Security

OK this is the THIRD time this has happened to me. I go through airport security and I get buzzed. I go back and it’s the CD in my portable CD player. The TSA takes it out, looks at it, runs it, by itself, through the security machine, then looks at it and says I can’t take it abord and will have to check it.

Of course being a person who always runs late at the airport and carries ONE bag I never check luggage, and I tell them just forget it. Of course then I have to pay for the CD at the public library.

The thing is I carry a lot of CDs and it’s only the library CDs that this has been an issue with. The Chicago Public Library CDs. My personal CDs always go through without a hitch.

Two of them were CDs of music and one was a book on CD. So is the library doing something to the CDs to make them flagged at security? Like I know they put censors on things so it beeps if you don’t check the books or whatever out.

Also initerestingly the CDs are only flagged at the smaller airports, Nashville, Dayton and today in Indianapolis. When I go through the large airports Chicago, Atlanta, St Louis, Kennedy, I have NEVER had anyone even ask about the CDs it passes right through the machine?

Any idea what is up with these CDs and why they are getting flagged?

Yeah I know I should check the CDs but after shelling out $60.00 for three stupid CDs I either won’t take anymore or I’ll make copies before I hit the plane


BTW it is the actual CD they are flagging, not the player. They are happy to let me take the player through but I’d have to check the CD itself

Perhaps they’re afraid you’ll take it into the bathroom and use an emeryboard to sharpen the edges to fashion a lethal ninja throwing star. Can I do that? (Shuriken)

That’s a more plausible threat that someone making an explosive out of shampoo and coffee.

It could be that the library CDs have either one of the magnetic security strips that is setting off the metal detectors or it has an RFID tag. It’s probably the former.

The TSA people are telling you to check it because they think it’s “funny.”

Funny as in “strange” and not funny as in “humorous”

Is it the CD, the case or the combo that is setting off security.
If the case is involved, I’d guess the library is putting a security strip in there, if it’s just the naked CD, I’m stumped.

There’s not that much that you could do to a CD, that would still leave it playable. Any magnetic strip, RFID, or the like that you added would slightly unbalance it, and at the speed those things spin, even slight inbalances can be significant.

My guess is that the reaction is just because of the metal content of the discs, and that the fact that they were all from the library is just coincidence. Metal detectors don’t care just about the mass of metal, but more about how it’s distributed, and a flat annulus of metal is one of the most efficient forms for showing up on a detector, so the CD makes the metal-detector gate beep. Probably the security at bigger airports are used to this problem, and are educated on it, but it might still be rare enough to be suspicious at the smaller airports.

[slight hijack] Is there any legal recourse to such nonsense? If it isn’t prohibited on the TSA website, and they stop you and refuse to let a CD on board, can you sue the TSA? [/sh]

For a short while my local library started sticking magnetic strips to actual CDs. This was pre-iTunes, they would work OK in a regular CD player, and clearly nobody had thought of the forces at work when they’re in a 52x drive. Funnily enough, this practice hasn’t continued.

In the old days, like 2002, libraries would put the security strip on the CD and then cover it with a clear plastic overlay. The trend now is to use a lockable case.

Those keep people from stealing the CDs immediately.

Instead, it takes them about five minutes.

Which is why my library has resorted to keeping all disks behind the desk, like they are a video rental place…

Not in a portable player, necessarily. A 1x drive (your basic music player) won’t have much problem with something the thickness of a piece of tape.

I’ve also seen sticky “rings” for CDs for labelling, so it’s possible you could add something circular and magnetic without unbalancing it even in a fast player.

Ah, yes. Take a look at this product, for example

The Santa Clara County Library network (Silicon Valley, California) uses magnetic strips that look identical to this security label kit (from TimeWinder’s link). Two parallel metallic strips, equidistant from the hub, covered by a mylar label (which also protects the library’s barcode sticker). I agree that it’s a potential source of problems at high rotational speeds. Since I happened to check out a CD from them this very afternoon, I decided to bite the bullet and test it in my 52x CD-RW.
[li]I played it as a music CD (i.e. 1x speed); there was no perceptible increase in drive noise.[/li][li]I then launched an application that read the CD at higher speeds (it was reading about 30x). Naturally, the noise level was higher than at 1x, but that would be true of a totally-balanced CD as well. There was no hint that the drive was uncomfortable with the “unbalanced” disk.[/li][/ul] Since the mylar label is circular and the metallic strips are thin, I’d say that the imbalance due to the security kit is very small; almost certainly, the barcode label (placed near the bottom of the CD’s label side, with no “counterweight”) is a greater cause of asymmetric moment.

They use the same system for their DVDs. Both media types can be “unlocked” either at the staffed checkout desk or at patron-operated machines that are activated by the user’s library card barcode.

[A few miles up the road, CDs and DVDs from the Palo Alto City Library have a small annular label with the library name and inventory number. The barcode label is on the case, which is locked by a security bar that requires a library staffer to unlock.]

To the OP: LtnJck, do your library CDs have metal strips like these? If so, I’d bet that’s your problem.

Well it’s the CD itself, everytime this happened, the CD has been in the player. I put the player in the “box” with my change and keys and such. Then the TSA looks at it, then takes the CD out. Then the TSA puts the CD itself through the machine. Then he looks at it like the CD is strange. All three times the TSA has called a supervisor (I guess he’s a supervisor or at least he’s a coworker), then says “Sorry you’ll have to check this.”

Like I said it’s interesting that I flew out of major airports the CDs pass through the big machine no problems. It was only in the smaller airports they even gave a second look. So do the smaller airports like Indianapolis, Dayton and Nashville, have different or more sensitive equipment? Or maybe the screeners aren’t as experienced with CDs.

The TSA don’t say I can’t take the CDs with but they say I have to check it in my luggage. Since I usually run late with airport, and I only carry one piece of luggage, that would mean getting out of line, and then back in line and waiting 1/2 hour to check my bag.

From now on I simply won’t take the library CDs anymore, or I’ll make copies of them for the flight. The only thing I can see is the library CDs all have stickers stating the name of the branch library and the serial number (for library use) on them.

I mean it is my fault as I could check the bags, so I can’t really fault the TSAs I was just wondering. I do know that if the library (in this case the Chicago library) forgets to run the books or tapes through the demagnitizer or whatever, it sets the alarm off at the Jewel Grocery Store too.

If we still lived in a free society you could have.

The TSAs do what they want and there is little to stop them. I won’t even BEGIN to tell you the mess I had when I (again stupid on my part) let my driver’s license expire. NEVER do this. It was a nightmare I can’t begin to tell you about