Laptop bomb threat could be expanded to more nations, DHS says – USA TODAY
The United States and the United Kingdom are setting new carry-on restrictions for certain flights that ban laptops and other large electronic devices. Josh King has the story (@abridgetoland).
WASHINGTON â Additional airports and electronics could be added to the Department of Homeland Securityâs ban on carry-on devices after authorities discovered screening vulnerabilities that could miss explosives planted in laptop computers.
âIâm not saying anything is imminent, but Iâm not ruling anything out,ââ DHS spokesman David Lapan said Tuesday.
Last week, federal authorities confirmed that recent FBI testing uncovered the screening problems, which prompted last monthâs indefinite ban on laptops and other electronics inside commercial airline cabins on U.S.-bound flights out of eight countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The U.S. prohibition on in-cabin electronics was announced March 21, and Great Britain followed with a similar ban the same day.
FBI testing had been underway for the past several months and was prompted in part by the recovery of fragments of undisclosed materials that highlighted new bomb-making techniques that might evade current screening methods, officials said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. government notified nine foreign airlines in the Middle East and Africa that personal electronics larger than cellphones would be banned indefinitely in the cabins of aboutÂ 50 direct flights daily to the U.S.
DHS Secretary John Kelly, and the acting head of the Transportation Security Administration, Huban Gowadia, decided that greater security was needed based on intelligence about airlines that fly non-stopÂ to the United States.
At the time the precautions were announced, California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his full support for the moves.
“These steps are both necessary and proportional to the threat,” Schiff said. “The global aviation system remains a top target and proper security requires that we continually adapt our defenses.”
TODAY IN THE SKY:Â What fliers need to know about the airline laptop and electronics ban
No imminent threat was reported. But the security measures require that passengers in the narrowly targeted zone to stow all of their tablets, e-readers, DVD players, cameras, game units, travel printers and scanners â any electronics larger than a cellphone â in checked luggage rather than in carry-on.
Lapan declined to elaborate on the level of credibility attached to potential threat. But he saidÂ the decision to relegate the devices to the baggage compartment was about “mitigating the threat.”
“Nothing is ever foolproof,” he said. “We can’t prevent completely.”
The bans have aggravated business travelers who would prefer to keep laptops with them for the long flights, and because concerns about possible damage or theft of electronics stored in checked luggage. The ban also raisesÂ safety issuesÂ about storing more rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in cargo, where rare incidents of overheating could go undetected and lead to a fire.
Nevertheless, Trump administration officials and key members of Congress insist the security measure is necessary, based on intelligence. The Federal Aviation Administration allows electronics in checked luggage, but offers suggestions for packing them safely.
Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, which represents 265 airlines worldwide, told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations in Canada that the bans aren’t acceptable long-term solutions. Travelers are asking valid questions such as why the United StatesÂ and Britain don’t have the same list of targeted countries and airlines, he said. And he suggested better screening equipment for electronics must be available.
“The current situation is not acceptable and will not maintain the all-important confidence of the industry or of travelers.” de Juniac said. “We must find a better way.”