US homeland security secretary John Kelly, describing commercial aviation as “the crown jewel target” of terrorists, has announced new security requirements for all US-bound international flights.
In an official communication from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released on June 28, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly announced enhanced security screening measures for all commercial flights to the United States.
According to Kelly remarks, “we have a lot of ground to cover today. Our nation is being targeted daily by terrorists, criminals, hackers, nation states, and more. Since 9/11, the United States has seen a series of attempted attacks on commercial aviation. A shoe bomber. Liquid explosives. An underwear bomber. And a plot to detonate explosive cargo. Most of these were disrupted just in time, but our enemies have not always failed”.
” Terrorists want to bring down aircraft to instill fear, disrupt our economies, and undermine our way of life. And it works—which is why they still see aviation as a crown jewel target. The threat has not diminished. In fact, I am concerned that we are seeing renewed interest on the part of terrorist groups to go after the aviation sector—from bombing aircraft to attacking airports on the ground, as we saw in Brussels and Istanbul”, highlighted Kerry.
The current U.S. government is consequently more than ever focused on deterring, detecting, and disrupting any of these threats.
“That is why in March I made the decision to ban electronic devices larger than a cell phone from the passenger cabins of U.S.-bound commercial flights from ten airports in the Middle East and North Africa. I made that call based on evaluated intelligence and real concerns we had about terrorist plotting”,, justified Kelly.
The Homeland State Secretary announced to soon introduce new security measures to be applied to all commercial flights coming into the United States. The measures – which have not been precisely described- will be both seen and unseen, and they will be phased in over time.
“Measures will include enhanced screening of electronic devices, more thorough passenger vetting, and new measures designed to mitigate the potential threat of insider attacks. We will also lay out a clear path to encourage airlines and airports to adopt more sophisticated screening approaches, including better use of explosive detection canines and advanced checkpoint screening technology”, indicated the State Secretary.
However, Kelly announcement contained also a threat to countries which would be slow to adapt to the new security measures: ” We send a clear message that inaction is not an option. Those who choose not to cooperate or are slow to adopt these measures could be subject to other restrictions—including a ban on electronic devices on their airplanes, or even a suspension of their flights to the United States”.
Some good news could come for travellers. The Department of Homeland Security State Secretary wants to see more airports to become Preclearance locations. A step which would increase convenience by allowing international travellers to go through customs and border security screening before boarding their flights to the United States. And enhanced security would then help lifting the current measures adopted against a limited number of airlines to ban on board electronic devices.
” We expect all airlines will work with us to keep their aircraft, their crew, and their passengers safe. While the actions we are announcing today will improve the security of U.S.-bound flights, I am hopeful other nations will follow suit. Unless we all raise our security standards, terrorists—who see commercial aviation as the greatest takedown—will find and attack the weakest link”, concluded Kelly.
New measures will apply to 180 airlines and 280 airports globally and affect 2,100 flights and 325,000 passengers on average on a daily basis. In Southeast Asia, these measures would concern Bangkok, Manila and Singapore and in the future Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta, once Garuda Indonesia and Vietnam Airlines are flying to the United States.
IATA, which has been critical of the laptop ban and urged the US to seek an alternative, said in a statement that it “welcomes the decision by … DHS to require enhanced security measures as an alternative to restrictions on the carriage of large portable electronic devices in the cabin on all flights to the US. This includes the ability to remove the existing restrictions on certain flights departing from the Middle East and North Africa to the US. IATA looks forward to working with our member airlines and DHS to implement this phased approach to enhanced aviation security.” The air transport association warned however that the “aggressive implementation timeline” of the DHS requirements will “be challenging”.