Editor, In Homeland Security
The TSA now requires passengers on all U.S.-bound flights to power-up their cellphones and other electronic devices before boarding an airplane. Any devices that do not power-up will be confiscated.
“As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers,” stated the TSA on Sunday. “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cellphones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.”
The new stringent measures are the result of increasing concern within the U.S. intelligence community that terrorists may be developing undetectable bombs capable of bringing down an airplane, and the added security indicates that handheld devices pose the greatest risk.
Intelligence officials are focusing their attention on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that has unsuccessfully attempted to destroy airplanes in the past by using suicide bombers with explosives concealed in their underwear. Also under scrutiny is the Sunni insurgency group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The TSA does not have the authority to personally enforce the new security procedures in overseas airports, but it can require their counterparts around the world to comply for any flights bound for the United States.
Whether or not the examination and possible confiscation of people’s cellphones will become commonplace in domestic airports remains unclear. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declined to speculate on that when he was interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” on Sunday.
“We continue to evaluate things,” said Johnson. “The screening we have right domestically from one domestic airport to another is pretty robust as the American traveling public knows. In this instance, we felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point of departure airports and we’ll continually evaluate the situation.”
The cellphone screening rule is one of several other new security processes now ongoing at international airports. Passengers in the U.K. airports report seeing officials “swabbing” various items including phones, tablets, laptops and shoes—apparently in an effort to detect explosive residue.