Over the past several weeks, the federal government has been considering a ban during internal security discussions that would cover any electronic devices larger than a cellphone. Aviation officials have told the press that there is a security concern with individuals boarding non-stop flights to the US from specific countries. The concern is related to these countries using different standards in screening procedures. The officials added that any domestic threats could be averted when passengers travel through at least a secondary city with more “enhanced” security measures to make the screening process more trustworthy.
Ban affects ten international airports
The ban was revealed Monday in statements from Royal Jordanian Airlines and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia, though its reasons were not immediately made clear. A US official has stated that the ban will apply to non-stop flights originating in several North African and Middle Eastern cities – including Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Doha, Riyadh, Jeddah, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. They, of course, are all places where Islam is predominant.
For now, the ban appears to be indefinite, though officials were not allowed to disclose the details of the ban ahead of a public announcement and spoke anonymously to the press.
US Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said: “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.” He phoned lawmakers over the weekend to brief them on aviation security that prompted the electronics ban, according to a congressional aide.
Some aviation security experts have characterized the situation to be indicative of a line of intelligence that could suggest a possible attack. Brian Jenkins, aviation security expert at Rand Corp, says that there could be concern about inadequate passenger screening or even conspiracy theories involving airline and airport employees at the listed airports.
Cell phones, medical devices excluded from ban
According to airline officials at Royal Jordanian, medical devices and cellphones are the two major exclusions from the electronic device ban list. All other items will need to be checked into luggage in advance. The airline said the electronics ban will affect flights coming into New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Montreal.
Other airline security experts, including Jeffrey Price of Metropolitan State University of Denver, have suggested disadvantages to having all passengers place electronic items other than cellphones and medical devices into their checked-in luggage. One possibility is that some laptops contain batteries that can catch fire, while others include an increase in baggage theft similar to when Britain imposed an electronics ban for carry-on luggage nearly ten years ago.