US ramps up checks on electronic devices on inbound flights

TSA cites fears that Islamic militants could be developing new hard-to-detect bombs

A passenger  undergoes an airport security check. Photograph: REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

A passenger undergoes an airport security check. Photograph: REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 01:01

The US is adding security checks on mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers for passengers travelling to America from certain airports in response to the increased violence in the Middle East.

The Transportation Security Administration, which oversees passenger checks at airports, has said that security staff may ask US-bound passengers to turn on their electronic devices during screenings over fears that radical Islamic militants could be developing new hard-to-detect bombs to smuggle on to aircraft flying to the US.

“Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft,” the administration said on Sunday, adding to increased security measures introduced last week on certain inbound international flights from Europe and the Middle East. “The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

President Obama’s US homeland security chief Jeh Johnson said that officials “felt it important to crank up” security checks at certain airports, but he would not admit which airports would be affected.

“Our job is to try to anticipate the next attack, not simply react to the last one,” Mr Johnson said on Sunday talkshow, NBC’s Meet The Press. “And so we continually evaluate the world situation, and we know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States, and aviation security is a large part of that.”

Secret service officials regularly ask visitors at some US government offices to turn on laptop computers to show they are not fake devices. The escalation of violence by the the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in Iraq has prompted the US to enhance security measures at overseas airport to cover electronic devices.

The measure will force US-bound travellers from Ireland to ensure that batteries in any electronic devices they intend to carry onboard have enough power so that they can be turned on for security staff.