DHS Announces ‘Enhanced’ Airport Screening But No Laptop Ban

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced Wednesday the U.S. government will require enhanced security screening for all foreign flights arriving in the United States, but the new measures will not include a ban on laptops in aircraft cabins.

Speaking at the Center for a New American Security conference in Washington, Kelly said aviation security is his department’s top priority, as foreign terrorist groups are constantly trying to find ways to disguise explosives to attack commercial aviation.

Though he did not specify exactly what the new security measures would entail, Kelly said DHS is working to “raise the bar worldwide” on aviation security without inconveniencing the traveling public. Under the new guidelines, foreign airports and airlines flying to the U.S. will have to tighten screening of passengers and checked luggage.

The stricter screening will apply to roughly 2,000 daily commercial flights arriving in the U.S. from 280 foreign airports. Airlines have 21 days to put in place increased explosive screening and have 120 days to comply with other unspecified security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers, U.S. officials told Reuters.

DHS says the enhanced screening will mitigate terrorists threats without the need for a laptop ban, but Kelly warned Wednesday that airlines that fail to satisfy the new requirements could be hit with a restriction on large electronic devices in the future.

“Unless we all raise our security standards, terrorists, who see commercial aviation as the greatest take-down will find and attack the weakest link,” he said at the CNAS conference.

The U.S. had already imposed similar restrictions devices in March, banning large electronic devices on flights from 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey. The move came in response to intelligence that terrorist groups were planning to attack flights bound for the West by disguising bombs as laptop batteries.

Kelly previously said it was “likely” the U.S. would expand the ban to more airports and left the door open to a worldwide prohibition if necessary. The enhanced screening requirements are a compromise with U.S. airlines, who were worried that a laptop ban could deter business travel and cut revenue.

In May, Kelly told Fox News that DHS is also considering changes to screening of carry-on luggage at U.S. airports. Kelly did not address those potential modification in his remarks Wednesday.

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