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"Will U.S. ban laptops on flights from Europe? Feds meet withairlines about it"


 
Thursday, May 11, 2017

Will U.S. ban laptops on flights from Europe? Feds meet with airlines about it 
By Hugo Martin
The Los Angeles (CA) Times


Department of Homeland Security officials met with airline industry 
representatives Thursday to discuss the possibility of expanding a ban on 
laptop computers and other large electronic devices as carry-ons on planes 
flying to the U.S. from Europe, according to industry sources

The potential move would expand restrictions imposed in March by the U.S. and 
Britain on electronic devices larger than a smartphone in passenger cabins of 
flights from eight Middle Eastern and African countries.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said no decision on an 
expansion of the ban has been made yet but the proposal is under consideration.

"DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when 
necessary to keep air travelers safe," department spokesman David Lapan said. 
"When there are changes, we'll announce that."

The European Union has called for urgent meetings with U.S. officials to 
discuss any potential expansion.

"We propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political 
and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common 
measures," according to a letter written by Violeta Bulc, EU transport 
commissioner, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home 
affairs and citizenship. The letter, seen by Reuters, was addressed to 
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and Transportation 
Secretary Elaine Chao.

The U.S. ban already in place requires passengers on international flights from 
10 airports in the Middle East and Africa to put all laptop computers, 
electronic tablets and other devices larger than a smartphone into luggage 
checked into the cargo compartment.

Senior U.S. administration officials have declined to elaborate on any threats 
that may have prompted the ban, saying only that commercial airlines are still 
a target of terrorists who are trying to smuggle explosives in electronic 
devices.

CNN has reported that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe 
that the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations have developed 
new ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that could evade some common 
airport security screening methods.

CNN cited unnamed intelligence officials saying that terrorists would have a 
more difficult time detonating an explosive remotely and that placing laptops 
and other devices in the cargo bay might reduce damage even if a bomb were to 
explode.

But safety experts have raised questions about the potential for batteries in 
electronic devices to catch fire in the hold.

The current ban by the U.S. imposes the restrictions on flights from Jordan, 
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Morocco. 
Los Angeles International Airport gets direct flights from Saudi Arabia, 
Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Discussion of expanding the ban to flights from Europe comes as the summer 
travel season approaches, and at a time when the travel industry has reported 
strong demand for international travel.

Travel industry experts had previously worried that President Trump's proposal 
to temporarily ban travel from several Middle Eastern countries would send a 
message that the U.S. is not welcoming to foreign visitors.

Travel data so far has not shown a significant drop in international travel to 
the U.S. but industry officials remain worried.

Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for the U.S. Travel Assn., said 
travel industry officials want to protect travelers from terrorist threats but 
also want to be informed by government officials on why new security measures 
are imposed.

"It is critical that the U.S. government clearly communicate the details of 
this new policy and the reasons why it's needed, continually reassess it to 
ensure it remains relevant and effective, and actively seek protocols that 
neutralize threats while minimizing disruption for legitimate business and 
leisure travelers," he said in a statement released Thursday.
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