Some direct flights to US will require passengers to show cellphones, as authorities work to counter threat of explosives
Passengers using airports that offer direct flights to the US may be forced to switch on their mobile phones and other electronic devices to prove to security officials that they do not contain explosives, it was announced on Sunday.
“During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones,” the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said in a post on its website. It warned: “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveller may also undergo additional screening.”
The TSA did not disclose which airports would be conducting the additional screening. It was reported last week that passengers at British airports travelling to the US were facing extra checks on phones. Belgian officials said passengers there would also have devices checked.
Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) advised that the new restriction meant any electronic device with a flat battery would not be allowed on flights, the Press Association reported.
Last week the DfT said undisclosed extra measures at British airports were not expected to cause “significant disruption” to passengers and noted that the official UK threat status remained unchanged.
The chairman of the UK parliament’s intelligence and security committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said the increased airport security measures were “unavoidable”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said jihadi extremists were deploying “devilish technical skill” to create ever more sophisticated devices to evade existing security measures. And he warned of the dangers of “complacency” among the public in the face of the failure of the terrorists to mount any successful mass casualty attack in the UK since the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005.
The new airport measure is the first to be confirmed since Jeh Johnson, the US Homeland Security secretary, warned last week that enhanced security checks would be implemented imminently at “certain overseas airports with direct flights into the United States”.
“We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry,” Johnson said on 2 July. “We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible.”
US officials told reporters that Johnson’s move followed intelligence that al-Qaida operatives in Syria and Yemen may have developed bombs that could be placed in mobile telephones and avoid detection to bring down aircraft bound for America.
Reuters reported last week that US officials had singled out Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices as needing particular attention during security checks on passengers for direct US-bound flights from Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
The officials were reported to be concerned that bomb-makers from both the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamist Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, had been collaborating to develop the explosives and plots to detonate them.
The US government said on Sunday that yet more security checks may be introduced in future. “TSA will continue to adjust security measures to ensure that travellers are guaranteed the highest levels of aviation security conducted as conveniently as possible,” the administration’s announcement said.
Nick Clegg, Britain’s deputy prime minister, warned last week that the extra security checks were unlikely to be lifted soon.
“I don’t think we should expect this to be a one-off temporary thing,” Clegg said on his weekly radio phone-in program. “We have to make sure the checks are there to meet the nature of the new kinds of threats. Whether it is forever – I can’t make any predictions. But I don’t want people to think that this is just a sort of a blip for a week. This is part of an evolving and constant review about whether the checks keep up with the nature of the threats we face.”
Enhanced security measures at certain airports overseas
Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.
As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.
TSA will continue to adjust security measures to ensure that travelers are guaranteed the highest levels of aviation security conducted as conveniently as possible