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Travelers Bound for U.S. Asked to Turn on Mobile Devices

Heathrow Airport
Airports including London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest, stepped up security checks with unspecified measures in response to the U.S. warnings. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

U.S.-bound travelers from some overseas airports are being asked to turn on mobile phones and other devices under enhanced security measures from the Transportation Security Administration.

Electronic devices that don’t power up won’t be permitted onboard the aircraft and the passenger may be subject to further screening, the TSA said yesterday in a statement. The agency didn’t elaborate.

U.S. and overseas-based carriers are affected by the new security measures and will be required to comply, according to a person familiar with the plans. The move is aimed at parts of the world where terrorists are active and airports that are a last point of departure for U.S.-bound flights, the person said.

“Our job is to try to anticipate the next attack, not simply react to the last one,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “And so we continually evaluate the world situation. And we know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States. And aviation security is a large part of that.”

The change comes after U.S. warnings of harder-to-detect bombs that could fool airport scanners. Scrutiny of travelers is being heightened as the conflict in the Middle East grows as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists form new alliances.

Heathrow’s Warning

Johnson directed the TSA last week to upgrade screenings at some overseas airports with direct flights to the U.S. Some airports including London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest, stepped up security checks. Heathrow advised passengers in a statement to “make sure any of your electronic devices are charged before you travel” and warned that if a device does not switch on it may not be allowed on board.

TSA won’t specify which countries or airports are included in the latest effort. Some of the countries involved are well-known for having terrorist activity, the person familiar with TSA’s plans said. Not every airport in Europe is included, the person said.

Travelers to the U.S. also can expect different kinds of pat-downs and checks on shoes, as the TSA tries to create multiple layers of security that work in tandem to more effectively detect threats, the person said.

Shoes, Liquids

The U.S. has long required domestic passengers to remove shoes and put any liquids in plastic bags for separate scanning, in response to intelligence information about possible new bomb-making threats from terrorists.

“DHS continually assesses the global threat environment and re-evaluates the measures we take to promote aviation security,” Johnson said in a statement July 2. “We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible.”

Johnson said in the NBC interview that the requests to foreign governments and airport authorities were an extension of domestic protections.

“I believe that we’ve taken the appropriate measures to deal with the existing situating and not unnecessarily burden the traveling public,” Johnson said.

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