Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Homeland Security Developing New Airport Security Standards: Foreign airports that meet them wouldn’t be hit by electronics ban, official says

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. 

The Wall Street Journal 
By Susan Carey
June 7, 2017 7:54 p.m. ET

An expanded ban of carry-on laptops on international flights could extend to flights headed to the U.S. from 71 airports around the world, a top security official told lawmakers on Wednesday.

But Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also said that the agency is trying to develop security standards that airports could meet to avoid the ban on laptops, tablets and other electronic devices.

The secretary, who spoke at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, said foreign terrorists “are trying every day to knock down one of our airplanes coming over here from—right now—Europe and the Middle East.” He called the threat “very serious “and “constant.”

The latest comments on the proposal under consideration by the Trump administration come after the agency previously hinted a ban may be expanded to all inbound flights to the U.S. from Europe. Recently, Mr. Kelly suggested the ban could affect all international flights in and out of the U.S.

Two months ago, the U.S. and the U.K. imposed a ban on some flights coming from the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. rule affected 10 airports. Mr. Kelly didn’t say where the additional 71 airports are located.

Mr. Kelly said he was behind the decision to install the initial ban, and said intelligence reports indicated that those airports were most at risk and airport security personnel didn’t have sufficient ability to guard against explosives in electronic devices.

“It was a very, very real threat, a very sophisticated threat…and not just one” emanating from the Middle East to take out an airplane in flight, Mr. Kelly said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kelly said a complication in a broader ban is a fire risk from lithium batteries that would have to be stored in the cargo holds of aircraft. He said there was disagreement among experts about the severity of that risk, and his agency is consulting with the Transportation Department on the issue.

He said DHS has consulted with officials in the European Union. The department is sending an official to a meeting in Malta next week to discuss the possible new security standards. The message is: “These are the new minimum security things you need to do at your airports so you can fly to the U.S. direct,” he said.

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