Monday, March 27, 2017

FLIGHT SECURITY - Carry-On Electronics

"What sparked a new carry-on electronics ban on some flights?" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2017


SUMMARY:  Passengers flying out of 10 specific airports in the Middle East can no longer take large electronic devices in their carry-on luggage, according to a new rule from the Department of Homeland Security.  The British announced a similar rule, but included different airports.  William Brangham gets insight from Matthew Olsen, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Passengers flying out of these airports can no longer take large electronic devices, things like laptops or mobile gaming devices or tablets, on board with them.  Those devices have to be in checked luggage only.  Cell phones are still allowed on board.

The new restrictions apply to flights from 10 specific airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.  The British today announced a similar move, but they included some different airports in their ban.

We turn now to Matthew Olsen for more on this.  He was the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center during the Obama administration.  And he now teaches at Harvard University.


I wonder if you could just tell me a little bit, what is going on here?

MATTHEW OLSEN, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center:  Well, it would appear that, almost certainly, there is some new intelligence that the intelligence community has gathered, whether on its own or from one of our partners in the region, that has given the government, in particular the Department of Homeland Security, increased concern about the possibility that a terrorist organization has developed some type of bomb that it can hide in a device like a laptop.

You know, whether that is brand-new intelligence or maybe just new analysis of existing intelligence, it's hard to say, but, certainly, there is some new piece of information that has given the government more cause for concern in this particular context.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  I mean, clearly, it also seems that we have lost faith in these particular airports, either in their ability to screen luggage or their ability to weed out infiltrators amongst their staff.  Is that right?

MATTHEW OLSEN:  Well, we have always had concern about airports in this region, and we have always placed additional screening requirements on flights that leave from these airports and don't stop before reaching the United States.

But the truth is that the best place to stop a terrorist attack, a plot like this, is at the earliest possible stage, where you can have intelligence that allows you to identify those individuals who are responsible for the plot.

The last opportunity really is at those airports, and really you are at least hoping that you're going to be able to stop a bomb once it reaches the airport gate.

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