U.S. Homeland Security officials on Wednesday will unveil enhanced security measures for foreign flights arriving in the United States, in a bid to avoid an expansion of an in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices because they might carry bombs, sources briefed on the matter said Wednesday.
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The decision not to impose new restrictions on laptops is a boost to U.S. airlines, which have worried that an expansion of the ban to Europe or other locations could cause significant logistical problems and deter some travel. Airlines that failed to satisfy new security requirements could still face future in-cabin electronics restrictions, sources said.
The U.S. imposed restrictions on laptops in March on flights originating at 10 airports in eight countries that include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey. They came amid fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said last week that U.S. authorities want to take the 10 airports off the restrictions list "by simply doing the kind of things that we're talking about here in terms of raising aviation security."
Homeland security officials plan to announce that those airports can get off the list if they meet the new security requirements.
Kelly said he planned a "step by step" security enhancement plan that included short, medium-term and longer term improvements that would take at least a year to completely implement.
Concerns regarding electronic devices originally surfaced in intelligence reportedly gathered by Israeli authorities indicating that ISIS sought to use the devices as bombs on airplanes.
The restrictions put in place in March were the direct result of the intelligence, though it wasn't originally known publicly that this was the case. The details and source of the intelligence only emerged after U.S. President Donald Trump shared the information, which was considered top secret, in a meeting with Russian officials without consulting with the American intelligence community.