The Trump administration has banned certain electronics from been carried onto U.S. bound flights from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports.
The unexpected move bans laptops, cameras, tablets and any electronics “larger than cellphones” and is expected to affect at least 12 airlines.
Full details of the ban are expected on Tuesday, but it’s being reported that the countries will include: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Somalia. The airports have 96 hours to comply with the new regulations.
Senior officials in the Trump administration cited “evaluated intelligence” that terrorists favoured “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items” in a somewhat frantic press conference on Monday night.
Department of Homeland Security (DoH) released a Q&A on Tuesday morning in which they disclosed why the measure have been in place. The U.S. Government was “concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years,” the Q&A reads.
It goes on to cite aeroplane downed over Egypt in 2016 and an attempt to down a Somali plane in 016 with a laptop laden with explosives. The Q&A also pointed to the attacks in airports in Brussels and Istanbul.
When quizzed whether it was fresh information that led to the electronics ban, DoH would only say: “we continually re-assess old intelligence and collect new intelligence.” It stated the 10 airports were selected “based on the current threat picture.” The affected airports are:
- Dubai International Airport (U.A.E.)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (U.A.E)
- Queen Alia International Airport (Jordan)
- Hamad International Airport (Qatar)
- Cairo International Airport (Egypt)
- Ataturk International Airport (Turkey)
- King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (Saudi Arabia)
- King Khalid International Airport (Saudi Arabia)
- Kuwait International Airport (Kuwait)
- Mohammad V International Airport (Morocco)
Many experts in the tech industry have been left puzzled by the seemingly ineffective ban. If there are concerns about laptops in the cabin, then those same rears could exist in checked baggage. Moreover, smartphones aren’t banned. They often have the same capabilities as laptops.
“It doesn’t match a conventional threat model,” said Nicholas Weaver, researcher at the International Computer Science Institute of California. “If you assume the attacker is interesting in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold.”
As today’s electronics ban only affects flights from majority-Muslim countries, it’s difficult not to see this new order in light of Trump’s previous travel bans. Both of which were rejected by the U.S appeals court.
Trump faced a genuine threat a lot closer to home this week. A Virginia man approached the white house claiming “he had a bomb in his car”. It’s the third such instance in proximity to the White House in a matter of weeks.