I can’t say how realistic this is, and I probably won’t be using the advice myself, but Jon Udell wrote about a plausible strategy for subverting the TSA rules into protecting your check-in luggage. The trick is to declare a firearm (in this case a starter pistol) which, by policy, forces your bag to be inspected in your presence and then locked in transit.
I’m given a little card to sign, the card is put in the case, the case is given to a TSA official who takes my key and locks the case, and gives my key back to me.
That’s the procedure. The case is extra-tracked…TSA does not want to lose a weapons case. This reduces the chance of the case being lost to virtually zero.
It’s odd that you can’t request to have any check-in inspected and secured for flight in your presence. It’d only be worth the hassle for a few people, and it’d save them a lot of grief. Then again, why can’t we expect the same level of accountability and professionalism from security-cleared baggage handlers and TSA officials as we can from anyone at DHL or Fedex?
Personally, I just bring any laptops and cameras with me in my carry-on. It presents its own hassle during screening due to the asinine “remove all electronics and put them in separate buckets” policy, but at least they show up on the other end of the flight.