Update, June 29, 2017
On June 28, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement about the implementation of “enhanced security measures for all commercial flights to the United States.”
The statement cited four broad areas of increased scrutiny, including: “enhancing overall passenger screening; conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices; increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening and establishing additional preclearance locations.”
What this will look like for travelers and the manner in which it will be rolled out — and in which airports — was not made clear.
However, the Department of Homeland Security did share the number of airports and the number of travelers that the new security measures could affect: 105 countries, 280 airports and 180 airlines conducting 2,100 daily flights that transport an average of 325,000 passengers daily.
The original story, published on April 6, 2017, follows
On March 21, a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security went into effect that requires travelers flying to the United States from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries to put electronics larger than a smartphone in checked baggage. The DHS identified cameras, e-readers, portable DVD players, tablets, travel printers and scanners and laptops as the devices that wouldn’t be allowed on board.
The airports that were impacted by the rule are Abu Dhabi International Airport, Dubai International Airport, Egypt’s Cairo International Airport, Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport, Kuwait International Airport, Morocco’s Mohammed V Airport, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and Turkey’s Ataturk International Airport.
For all domestic flights or international flights departing from the United States, the new rule does not apply.
The DHS had this to say to explain why the rule was being implemented: “Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”
The agency did not say at what point the ban would be lifted, and at a congressional hearing this week, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said, “we may take measures in the not too distant future to expand the number of airports.”
Last month, the United Kingdom also instituted a similar ban for direct flights to the U.K. from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration is considering “extreme vetting” practices for citizens from foreign countries that want to enter the United States. Those could include being compelled to share social media passwords, phone contacts and financial records, in addition to questions regarding ideology.
Though none of these practices have been implemented, if were they to go into effect, they could be far-reaching and affect countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows people from specific countries to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. Those participating countries include Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.