Bri­tain joins U.S. in ban on carry-on elec­tron­ics

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Lori Aratani and Rick Noack Wash­ing­ton Post

Bri­tain joined the United States on Tues­day in ban­ning pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing from air­ports in sev­eral Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries from bring­ing laptops, tablets and other por­ta­ble elec­tronic de­vices on board with them when they fly.

The U.K. ban ap­plies to six coun­tries, while the U.S. ban ap­plies to 10 air­ports in eight Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries.

Fliers can still travel with these items, but they must be packed in their checked bag­gage on U.S.- and U.K-bound flights from air­ports across the coun­tries in­clud­ing busy tran­sit hubs in Is­tan­bul, Dubai and Doha, Qatar.

The Bri­tish ban will also in­clude some cell­phones and is ex­pected to ap­ply to all air­ports in the six na­tions.

A spokesman for the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice said the mea­sures were based on the “same in­tel­li­gence the U.S. re­lies on.”

The U.S. ban ap­plies to non­stop U.S.-bound flights from 10 in­ter­na­tional air­ports in Am­man, Jor­dan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Is­tan­bul; Jed­dah and Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emi­rates. About 50 flights a day, all on for­eign air­lines, are af­fected.

The Bri­tish rules ap­ply to flights from Turkey, Le­banon, Jor­dan, Egypt, Tu­nisia and Saudi Ara­bia.

Se­nior U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said the rules were prompted by “eval­u­ated in­tel­li­gence” that ter­ror­ists con­tinue to tar­get com­mer­cial avi­a­tion by “smug­gling ex­plo­sives in por­ta­ble elec­tronic de­vices.”

“Based on this in­for­ma­tion, Sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity John Kelly and Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion act­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tor Huban Gowa­dia have de­ter­mined it is nec­es­sary to en­hance se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures for pas­sen­gers at cer­tain last-point-of-de­par­ture air­ports to the United States,” of­fi­cials said late Mon­day.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials ini­tially de­scribed the ban as in­def­i­nite. But a spokesman for the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, David La­pan, said the di­rec­tive runs un­til Oct. 14 and could be ex­tended for an­other year “should the eval­u­a­tion of the threat re­main the same.”

The of­fi­cials would not pro­vide de­tails on the threats. One ex­am­ple they cited in­volved a bomb, pos­si­bly hid­den in a lap­top, that ex­ploded on board a So­mali plane go­ing from Mogadishu to Dji­bouti, not a U.S.-bound flight.

How­ever, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the se­cu­rity warn­ing said the gov­ern­ment has long been con­cerned about the as­pi­ra­tions of a Syria-based ter­ror­ist group to build ex­plo­sive de­vices hid­den in­side elec­tron­ics in a way that would be hard to de­tect.

In 2014, such con­cerns led to a tight­en­ing of se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures on U.S.-bound flights, but at the time, some of­fi­cials said the de­sign of such de­vices did not ap­pear to have moved past the plan­ning stages. One per­son fa­mil­iar with the new re­stric­tions said they were based on more re­cent in­tel­li­gence that sug­gested ter­ror­ists had got­ten fur­ther along in de­vel­op­ing such hid­den ex­plo­sives.

Un­der the re­stric­tions, trav­el­ers will be re­quired to put all per­sonal elec­tronic de­vices larger than a cell­phone or smart­phone in their checked bag­gage. U.S. air­lines are not af­fected by the ban be­cause none of­fer di­rect U.S.-bound flights from the af­fected air­ports.

Turkey’s trans­port min­is­ter, Ah­met Arslan, crit­i­cized the ban Tues­day, telling re­porters in Ankara that it was not “ben­e­fi­cial” for pas­sen­gers and that Turkey al­ready has strin­gent se­cu­rity mea­sures in place, ac­cord­ing to Turkey’s semi-of­fi­cial Anadolu news agency.

CHRIS ISON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS 2012

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment on Tues­day banned elec­tronic de­vices in the carry-on bags of pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing to the U.K. from six coun­tries. The de­ci­sion comes a day af­ter the United States im­posed a sim­i­lar ban.

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