WASHINGTON -- Passengers at some overseas airports that offer U.S.-bound flights will soon be required to power on their electronic devices in order to board their flights.
It is a measure intended to enhance aviation security at a time when intelligence officials are concerned about hidden explosives, a counterterrorism official said.
American intelligence officials have been concerned about new al-Qaida efforts to produce a bomb that would go undetected through airport security. There is no indication that such a bomb has been created or that there's a specific threat to the U.S., but intelligence has suggested that al-Qaida and like-minded groups are focused on perfecting an explosive that could be hidden in shoes, electronics or cosmetics, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
The Transportation Security Administration says it is adding the requirement that passengers coming to the U.S. from some airports must turn on devices such as cellphones before boarding. It says devices that won't power up won't be allowed on planes and those travelers may have to undergo additional screening. Turning on an electronic device can show a screener that the laptop or cell phone, for instance, is a working device and that the batteries are used for operating that device and are not hidden explosives.
"As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers," the TSA said in the Sunday release announcing the new steps.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently ordered the TSA to call for extra security measures at some international airports with direct flights to the United States. TSA does not conduct screening abroad, but has the ability to set screening criteria and processes for flights flying to the U.S. from abroad, according to a Homeland Security Department official, who was not allowed to discuss the changes publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.