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US announces ‘first step’ in new air travel security measures

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    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has initiated enhanced security screenings for all global commercial flights inbound for the US. They include “seen and unseen” measures meant to avoid a total ban on laptops and other electronic devices.

    Kelly confirmed the anticipated tightening of air travel security measures at the Council for New American Security conference in Washington, DC on Wednesday.

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    Laptop ban could cost airlines $3.3 billion annually

    A fact sheet issued by the Department of Homeland Security referenced a “‘spider web’ of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist [sic] pursue new attack methods.” To meet those challenges, DHS said plans were underway to “raise the baseline of global aviation security.”

    Kelly said the “first step” of implementation was being taken Wednesday, while the DHS fact sheet said that more action would be taken gradually “over the next several weeks and months.” Measures could also be “dialed up or down in a risk-based, intelligence-driven manner.”

    Approximately 280 airports in 105 countries will be affected, according to the fact sheet. That also includes 180 airlines, as well as a daily tally of about 2,100 flights and 325,000 passengers.

    Airlines that do not go along with the US requirements will face a “ban on electronic devices on their airplanes, or even a suspension of their flights to the United States,” Kelly said.

    Among the security enhancements are “better use” of bomb-sniffing K-9 dogs and adopting more advanced technology in checkpoint screening. Kelly specified that personal electronic devices, such as cell phones, laptops or tablets, would be subject to “heightened screening.”

    In March, DHS announced a carry-on ban of any electronic devices larger than a cell phone for 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

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