TSA Targets Electronic Devices

TSA security electronics

Charge up those electronic devices. Especially iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy if you’re heading out of Europe, the Middle East or Africa on a U.S. bound flight. There is amped up security in response to intelligence suggesting terrorists are plotting to blow up an airliner.

Worry over electronic devices is the latest from the TSA, which first expressed new security concerns late last week.

In a statement released over the weekend, TSA officials said passengers might be asked to switch on electronic devices. “Powerless devices will not be permitted on board the aircraft. The traveller may also undergo additional screening,” said the statement.

U.S. intelligence officials intuit that Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamist Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s subset in Syria, have the wherewithal to develop hard-to-detect explosives that contain no metal and emit only a faint vapor.

Such a bomb could go undetected through airport security. Apparently sensing equipment that can do the job is not used on every passenger.

The likely Trojan Horses, they believe, are cellphones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices.

An advisory earlier this year warned airlines to look out for explosives-laden toothpaste tubes, cosmetics and shoes. Hatred is the mother of invention.

The TSA did not disclose which airports are conducting additional screening. An official told the BBC that London’s Heathrow was among the airports. (Authorities at a Paris airport inspected my electronic devices on Sunday (seeThe Tarmac’s View below).

American officials said there is a “credible” threat, but did not link security changes to any clearly identified intelligence or timeframe. However, Ugandan authorities said they have received a specific threat.

The U.S. does not directly control security at overseas airports. But airlines and airports must meet TSA security standards to operate non-stop flights to the U.S.

ABC news quoted one source calling the threat “different and more disturbing than past aviation plots.”

The Department of Homeland Security is evaluating whether the increased security will be applied to U.S. domestic flights.

The Tarmac’s View:  I flew out of Charles de Gaulle Airport over the weekend. Not on a U.S. bound flight but I did have to power up both my iPhone and MacBook. Apple’s iPhone had an update download that day, which was coincidental to security inspections. It was about a 30-minute download over the hotel’s Wi-Fi so I plugged the phone into an electrical outlet. I had no knowledge of the latest security tactics. But if I was out of juice at the airport, I wonder if French officials would have let me use a nearby outlet to prove I’m not smarter than the smartphone.

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Comments (Showing 3 of 3)

  • diburning at 8:36pm July 07, 2014

    I feel like this is nothing more than security theater.

  • TennisNoob at 2:28am July 08, 2014

    So a traveler like me that just happened to fly through SFO a few days ago, with a laptop that didn’t have any batteries, (I left the mac charger at home) would be screwed because I didn’t feel confident having my Mac getting stolen by the luggage crew.

  • EmptyKim at 6:03am July 08, 2014

    Used to have to do this pre-9/11 in airports.

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