TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 : The Fallout From NW253

27/12/2009 – TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 : The Fallout From NW253

Following the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on Delta Air Lines Flight 253, operated by Northwest Airlines, from Amsterdam to Detroit, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created a series of security measures in reaction to the incident.

Earlier today I wrote about Flight NW253 here, 27/12/2009 – Northwest Airlines Flight 253 : Myths & Facts.

The following is the complete text of the US DHS security directive as implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

I post this text with no commentary or opinion; it is posted in its entirety as fact for you to better understand what is currently occurring in the realm of international aviation security.

Happy Flying & remember to use the lavatory 61 minutes prior to arrival in the US from overseas

Transportation Security Administration

Aviation Security Directive

Subject: Security Directive
Number: SD 1544-09-06
Date: December 25, 2009

EXPIRATION: 0200Z on December 30, 2009

This Security Directive (SD) must be implemented immediately. The measures contained in this SD are in addition to all other SDs currently in effect for your operations.

INFORMATION: On December 25, 2009, a terrorist attack was attempted against a flight traveling to the United States. TSA has identified security measures to be implemented by airports, aircraft operators, and foreign air carriers to mitigate potential threats to flights.


ACTIONS REQUIRED: If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States (including its territories and possessions), you must immediately implement all measures in this SD for each such flight.


1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.

1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso.
2. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids.
3. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.

2. During the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures outlined in Section I.A. of this SD, including the following who are traveling with the Head of State or Head of Government:

1. Spouse and children, or
2. One other individual (chosen by the Head of State or Head of Government)

3. For the purposes of Section I.B., the following definitions apply:

1. Head of State: An individual serving as the chief public representative of a monarchic or republican nation-state, federation, commonwealth, or any other political state (for example, King, Queen, and President).

2. Head of Government: The chief officer of the executive branch of a government presiding over a cabinet (for example, Prime Minister, Premier, President, and Monarch).


1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:

1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The aircraft operator must immediately provide written confirmation to its assigned PSI indicating receipt of this SD.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR dissemination required: The aircraft operator must immediately pass the information and directives set forth in this SD to all stations affected, and provide written confirmation to its PSI, indicating that all stations affected have acknowledged receipt of the information and directives set forth in this SD. The aircraft operator must disseminate this information to its senior management personnel, ground security coordinators, and supervisory security personnel at all affected locations. All aircraft operator personnel implementing this SD must be briefed by the aircraft operator on its content and the restrictions governing dissemination. No other dissemination may be made without prior approval of the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration. Unauthorized dissemination of this document or information contained herein is prohibited by 49 CFR Part 1520 (see 69 Fed. Reg. 28066 (May 18, 2004).

APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE MEASURES: With respect to the provisions of this SD, as stated in 49 CFR 1544.305(d), the aircraft operator may submit in writing to its PSI proposed alternative measures and the basis for submitting the alternative measures for approval by the Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management. The aircraft operator must immediately notify its PSI whenever any procedure in this SD cannot be carried out by a government authority charged with performing security procedures.

FOR TSA ACTION ONLY: The TSA must issue this SD immediately to the corporate security element of all affected U.S. aircraft operators.

FOR STATE DEPARTMENT: Retransmittal to appropriate foreign posts is authorized. Post must refer to STATE 162917, 201826Z Sep 01, Subject: FAA Security Directives and Information Circulars: Definitions and Handling, for specific guidance and dissemination.

Gale Rossides
Acting Administrator


  1. […] Yesterday evening was like most other nights, until around 6:30pm when I received a phone call from Chris Elliot. Chris is a travel journalist, who happens to be National Geographic Traveler’s Reader Advocate, writes a regular column for The Washington Post, produce a weekly segment for MSNBC…and Chris is the other journalist who received and published a copy of the TSA’s Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 […]


  1. “Before entering the aircraft, all passengers will remove all their clothing. Upon entering the aircraft, the crew will administer sedatives to all passengers. Passengers will then be placed in 4-point restraints for the duration of the flight. All clothing and carry-on luggage will be disposed of before the aircraft is allowed to taxi.”

    Short of this, someone will always be able to (in some way) cause a problem on an airplane. Of course this wouldn’t stop sabotage to an airplane before take-off, or a pilot going terrorist. Even if air travel was magically made terrorism-proof, there is no way to prevent an unknown person from hurting other people. It is impossible. These random restrictions the TSA comes out with are not risk management, it is terrorism – the use of fear as a means of coercion.

  2. Would someone please tell me how this will improve anything? Do they think a terrorist will decide not to do anything because they can’t access their “tools” or each other 60 minutes before landing? Uh, sanity check. What about the rest of the flight time?
    Would someone please apply a bit of forethought to ANY of these security policies?

    Oh, and as a parent of small children – shutting down the lavatory 60 minutes before landing just isn’t realistic. Little bladders don’t come with timers or schedules.

  3. To Debbie:
    Almost 25% of the world’s population is Muslim. If “muslims are training their people to kill all infidels” we would all be dead.

    All religions have fanatics who use violence to bully others. We don’t stereotype Christians as Branch Davidians, or any number of other crazy sects that have showed up over the years. We don’t stereotype Mormons based on the Yearn for Zion polygamist sect. Despite “Zealot” now being synonymous with a person in a crazy sect, we do not stereotype Jews based on the Zealot sect, or any number of other crazy sects over the years.

    Don’t you realize the stereotypes you espouse are the kind of stereotypes that led to the Holocaust?

    There has not been a true religion-wide holy war in over seven hundred years, the Crusades. Before that, the Islamic expansion that ended over a thousand years ago. The terrorism happening today is not a even remotely close to the religious war you have made it out to be. Such a war would be very short and more than likely end in global extinction.

  4. Debbie,
    I am an American of Japanese descent. I serve in the US military. I have worked hard all my life and have taught my children to work hard, respect the Constitution, and treat people around them with respect.

    What you typed up in your first post [December 28th, 2009 at 2:06 pm], is scary. Talk like that spread through the US like wildfire during WWII and put people like me and my children in detention camps within our own country and robbed those US CITIZENS of everything they had earned. You need to do some serious self reflection to imagine someone saying those same words about whatever nationality or faith you belong to and seeing what it feels like.

    To give you an example of how what you said sounded: probably 1% of the US teenage population are criminals. Based upon your logic, every teen should be thrown into jail to avoid problems with that 1%.

  5. Next a TSA-monitored changing room where all clothing will be exchanged for a hospital gown and paper slippers? Clothing and luggage then go on a cargo-only aircraft and matched up with passengers at the destination changing room.

  6. Woody Allen had it right. Just make everyone wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes.

    Seriously, we need to hire an ex El Al security person to run TSA and give them the authority to do it right. It’s time for the amateurs to step down and get a serious professional to do the job. As a matter of fact, it’s time for all of the children in government to find something new to do, and get the adults in, in their place.

  7. As a business executive who travels frequently, I may see this issue a little differently. I think that the airline industry – airports and airlines – are going to have to invest their own money (not a give-away from the Federal Government) in up-to-date and available screening technology for commercial travel, instead of inane rule add-ons every time an event like the NW flight occurs.
    The real problem we face in American air travel is that we are trying to patch together a higher level of security with security equipment from many years ago when the recent events were deemed something that could never happen to us in America. 9/11/01 canged all this, but, 8+ years later, what has the airline industry really changed to increase safety on an airplane:
    -replaced for-hire security with TSA – an improvement? That is a chin scratcher!
    – limiting carry on liquids to 3 ounces per container
    – making you show said liquids separate in the x-ray process
    – taking off your shoes and removing coats/hats prior to the same screening technology from decades ago.
    – sometimes removing your belt???? (who are we James West or Artemis Gordon with secret belt bombs?

    The bottom line is if travel is going to become really safe and not a huge inconvenience, there will have to be investment in new technology, just like any other industry has to do to stay ahead. Remember the brick cell phones? now my family members can surf the web on a phone the size of a deck of cards. Industry must and does change with the times if it wants to survive.

    What has the airline industry done in the past 25 years to update their commercial offering and why should the airline industry be any different than other for-profit companies?

  8. In response to John’s comment….

    “I wonder if the TSA officers at the customs checkpoint will refuse to tell you what city you’ve ended up in.”

    – This only applies if your Northwest Airlines flight overflies its final destination by 150 miles or more…….

  9. This nonsense should come as no surprise from an agency that is part and parcel to the keystone cops of homeland security headed up by that most incompetent buffoon, Napotilano. I would sooner trust my security to Mo, Larry and Curly than to the morons at homeland security. This near disaster but for the grace of God, just shows how after throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at that inefficient bureaucratic mess, homeland security, we’re no better off now that we were prior to 911. This incident proves conclusively that islamic terrorists can easily penetrate our defenses at airports just as US Army Major Nidal Hasan can go on unimpeded after making threatening remarks about our troops and making contact with known terrorists. The idiots at HS through the FBI should have had sufficient reason to deny a visa for the Detroit bomber based entirely on his father’s expression of concern delivered to American consular officials in Nigeria. Everyone should recall that it was the issue of visa’s with respect to the 911 terrorists that was faulted as having been too easy. Those who fail to read history are doomed to repeat it.

    No one should feel safe on any flight especially on a larger jet. Napo is so stupid she had the audacity to claim the system worked and only after being taken to the wood shed over that moronic statement did she backtrack insisting that her comments were taken out of context, the usual refrain from idiots and liars when confronted with their exact words. Installing the necessary detection systems at airports over the objections of that hate-america organization masquerading as a guardian of civil liberties, the ACLU, is what should be immediately done at all costs. Such systems are available but were kept from being installed by the ACLU and their leftist lackies in Congress. It is just a matter of time until a massive and deadly attack succeeds in killing many innocent americans because of the sheer incompetence at the executive level of our government.

  10. Thanks for publishing this.
    The measures are not going to be effective as a solution.

    We need a root and branch review of security and some new thinking.

    There is surely much to learn from frequent flyer programs with separate lounges and tier levels. That’s what I would like to see – which is why I sacrificed my privacy in order to take advantage of the iris eye scanner to jump the queues at immigration in the UK.

    I shall watch developments with interest and report on my upcoming LGW to MCO flight

    Angus (mystery flyer dot com)

  11. This is what happens to a country when you let the government get too big.

    Obama preached accountability. I expect to see many fired over this incident.

    Taking away my internet, pillow and blanket or making me pee in my pants during the last hour of the fight will not stop the next terrorist.

    People world-wide are laughing at us. Is this the best America can come up with? Is this the best the former super power can do to stop terrorism? If anything it gives confidence to terrorists world-wide, they must be reading the TSA security directive and thinking to themselves that they are definitely smarter than the US and they should only try more and harder now to destroy us.

  12. @bert

    1 hour being screened? get real. when is the last time anyone has made it through airport security/screening for a flight in an hour or less? probably not since 09/10/2001. try 3 or 4 hours and dealing with this kind of b u l l s h i t.

    seems that the terrorists have indeed ‘won’. if anyone thinks this kind of draconian action by our government with regards to travel and so much else isn’t an obvious goal of terrorists is blind. they don’t just wish to terrorize and kill people. they want our government to slowly remove, and justify removing our freedoms because of it. sad part is, it is working like a charm. and people like bert are ok with that. well right now they are taking away minor things. lets see what you have to say when the government removes our basic freedoms and rights to ‘protect’ us from terrorism.

  13. what does turning off the internet and entertainment systems do to prevent terrorism?


    this is an intelligence community failure. this was not caused by the travelling public at large.

    way to make a failure of a failure of a failure TSA. subpoenaing the travel bloggers that published this? FAIL.

  14. At this rate, two more amateurish attempts and we will all be flying nude, handcuffed to our seats.

  15. The only reason for implementing SD 1544-09-06 was to show the TSA is doing something, however ineffective, in (knee-jerk) reaction to the attack on Flight NW253. And now the TSA is investigating the “leak” of this directive?

  16. All passengers should be stripped and then immediately put on a straight jacket. Once seated, with assistance, they should be handcuffed to their seat, and have a hood put over their head. Then they should be beaten into unconsciousness, except when the liquor cart comes around, when they should be forced to pay an exorbitant price for a pain killing 150 proof shot of TSA employee piss.

    I can totally support these necessary security measures because I am not going to fly again anywhere if I can help it.

  17. We’re being set up once again. A clumsy Muslim Terrorist, a Dutch Jewish Hero Savior. It really is getting boring. It’s all about control, scare tactics and Muslim scapegoats. Is it just me? What’s next? Some Dancing Israelis with Turbans shooting missiles at our planes? It’s soooooooooooooo transparent, come on.

  18. If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States

    hello people it says FOREIGN so
    1.unless you are comming from Canada or Mexico you cant drive
    2.this isnt your CONUS flight…
    Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso

    i disagree with this entirely, it is a bit over the top. I mean comon are you really going to expect people to wait while every single passenger recives a “thorough pat-down”?

  19. I’m dreading the day when a terrorist actually stores dynamite in his rectum and TSA then makes body cavity search mandatory…

  20. LOL I Like what reply #130 stated.

    Everything that’s listed in regards to the “Gate” should have been adhered to ALREADY. Why is this NEW?

    The in-flight stuff is ridiculous too. No blanket or pillow within in hour of landing? Not telling people where you’re flying over? Whatever happened to the pilot saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen if you look out your window, you will notice we are flying over the beautiful Sierra Nevadas (or other landmark)….”

    BTW, I don’t trust TSA as far as I can throw my car. 🙂 Too much theft going on….stealing shit from people’s baggage? Who hires these people???

    Just like the illegal immigration problem, the US government is putting a band-aid on the problem instead of getting to the root of it. What good are all the directives listed above IF TERRORISTS aren’t showing up on the NO FLY LIST for crying out loud?

  21. The terrorists are laughing at us. The TSA is doing exactly what the terrorists set out for them to do and that is to disrupt the lives of Americans. When will the government realize that punishing its citizens for the terrorist acts of others has zero effect on terrorism?

  22. After all of this, human stupidity will still rule. TSA worker shooting the shit with a fellow TSA worker misses looking at body scanner screen, allowing anything on this persons body to board with him. All the bull shit rules making travel miserable will not solve the above. Fix the system!!!!!!! Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance!

  23. Individuals working for the TSA have crossed the line time and again. The individuals who threatened you are not interested in national security, they are interested in being “gangstas” and criminals under the umbrella of the law. Others think that brute force works simpler than using true detective work and it does for people not smart enough to differentiate between a criminal and a citizen. Judgement for them will come and it will be severe and nobody will save them from their crimes.

  24. For some time Ive contemplated why it is apparent that our government run agencies and those that have authority in them lack “common sense” and have a disturbingly lean towards incompetency.

    How could a country that facilitated the winning of WWII, build an economic powerhouse unlike History has ever seen in 200 years, and for cliche’s sake, put Man on the moon (multiple times), be failing so miserably in so many ways?

    The only thing that makes sense is the lack of disciplined, pragmatic people in positions authority, and to a degree, the lack of the same in the general population.

    Imagine after WWII and Korea, and even Vietnam, the number of military trained people that entered public service in many arenas. Imagine the number of those in the general public who were actively engaged in support of these events. (especially WWII)

    We now have very few people like that in charge , and those in power (state and national lawmakers) are for the most part those that despised the military in their youth.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    Perhaps the large number of military trained people in theater since 2003 will strengthen us in the future as they rise through the ranks of public authority. Until then we are doomed with the unqualified ruling hand of the hippie generation, and their undisciplined, entitlement minded children (the 35-45 y.olds) who hold lower posts of authority and run departments within these agencies..

    Perhaps all US citizens should be required 1 year of military service, just for the fact that discipline will be learned. All positions held would be in the US and non combat and require community service as part of the training. Then one could be released back into the public with a mind slightly more aware of more than itself.

    Just an idea.

  25. Seems like the TSA is willing to be harsher against bloggers who are tell us about Govt ineptitude than against terrorists who threaten to kill our people. Am I wrong or does it appear that the Feds are more genuinely angry with bloggers and commentators than with Al-Queda?

  26. I’ve been boycotting the airlines for years. Why pay good money to be treated like a terrorist? I sincerely hope the airline industry goes bankrupt for not standing up to the fascists. Oh, wait… they ARE the fascists who will get “bailed out” if they go bankrupt….
    Seriously, if you still do business with these people you are part of the problem. Drive, take a train, take a cruise – so may ways to get around that do NOT involve this BS.

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