TSA’s Electronics Checks Coming to U.S. Airports Soon

A new requirement for U.S.-bound fliers at overseas airports to turn on electronics to show the devices aren’t bombs is being expanded to certain passengers on domestic flights, said two people familiar with the plans.

The Transportation Security Administration said this month it was making some fliers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East turn on their laptops, phones and other devices. Now, a limited number of travelers in U.S. airports selected for extra screening will have their devices checked too, said the people, who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t public.

U.S. and European authorities have been on heightened alert for Islamic extremists traveling from western nations to Syria and then returning home as potential terrorists.

The TSA continues to adjust security measures to fit an evolving threat environment, a Department of Homeland Security official said, without citing any specific threat. Information about security enhancements is sensitive, said the official, who asked not to be named.

The checks at U.S. airports won’t apply to every flier, and will be used more sparingly than overseas, the two other people said. Other procedures, including different kinds of pat-downs and shoe checks, won’t be brought to U.S. airports, the people said.

Added checkpoint procedures have the potential to create airport delays. The TSA in recent years had been trying to move more and more U.S. fliers into its Pre-Check trusted traveler program after backlash over onerous screening procedures.

Shoe Bomber

The TSA won’t publicly specify which travelers will be affected. All electronic devices are already subject to security checks, including being run through screening machines.

During the new security examinations, screeners may ask that owners power up some devices, including mobile phones, the DHS official said. Devices selected for this screening that can’t turn on won’t be permitted to board. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.

The overseas electronics checks were disclosed on July 6. London’s Heathrow airport, Europe’s busiest, has said it’s among the facilities where they’re in place. The airport told passengers to make sure electronic devices are charged because units that don’t switch on may not be allowed on board planes. British Airways also warned transfer travelers not to deplete power on devices during the first part of their journey.

Airport footwear inspections became standard in the U.S. after a U.K. citizen, Richard Reid, tried to ignite explosives in his high-top sneakers on a flight to Miami in 2001. In 2006, carry-on liquids became a security focus after U.K. police said they foiled a plot to blow up U.S.-bound jets.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose department includes TSA, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 6 that the U.S. government had taken “appropriate measures to deal with the existing situation and not unnecessarily burden the traveling public.”

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