US says smartphones and electronics to get closer airport checks

By Michael Langan, AFP

WASHINGTON–Air travelers with smartphones or other electronic devices must be able to turn them on to take them aboard under new security measures, U.S. authorities said Sunday. U.S.-bound travelers from Europe and the Middle East have faced tighter airport security in recent days over fears that militants linked to al-Qaida are developing new explosives that could be slipped onto planes undetected. The checks focused on electronic items such as laptops and smartphones, amid fears that extremists such as al-Qaida could use them as their latest tactic in a long campaign of attacks involving jets. “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cellphones,” the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said in a statement, noting that all electronic devices are screened by security officers.

“Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.” The agency noted that it could “adjust” security measures further to provide maximum security to travelers. A TSA official declined to confirm further details about the enhanced screenings in the United States, and on U.S.-bound flights. French and British authorities have urged passengers to allow extra time to get past the additional measures, which were not specified but were believed to focus on footwear and electronic items. The Department of Homeland Security, of which the TSA is part, is also asking that airlines and airport authorities in Europe and elsewhere examine the shoes of passengers headed for the United States and increase random screenings of travelers, ABC News reported. It cited one source as saying the unspecified threat was “different and more disturbing than past aviation plots.” “We felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point-of-departure airports,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told NBC television’s “Meet the Press.” “And we’ll continually evaluate the situation. “We know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States. And aviation security is a large part of that,” he added. Concern over Returning Fighters