Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday the commercial aviation system remains a top target for terrorists seeking to strike the U.S. and suggested that tighter security procedures at the nation’s airports will be in place for the foreseeable future.
There is a “real threat,” Kelly said, that terrorist groups are plotting to blow up a U.S.-flagged plane in flight.
“There’s numerous threats against aviation,” he told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “That’s really the thing that they’re obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a U.S carrier, particularly if its full of U.S. folks.”
The threat to aviation has prompted Kelly to tighten security measures on international flights coming to the U.S. (RELATED: DHS Considers Expanding Laptop Ban To Europe)
DHS implemented in March a temporary ban on laptops in the cabins of flights originating at 10 airports in the Middle East, following a “credible” threat that ISIS intended to use bombs disguised as computer batteries to take down a Western airplane. Kelly has said he is considering expanding that restriction to all international flights coming to and departing from the U.S.
When asked by Wallace if he will expand the ban on large electronic devices, Kelly declined to confirm either way.
“I might,” he said, adding that DHS and other federal agencies are still “following the intelligence” to determine if the prohibition is warranted.
“The very good news is that we are working incredibly close with friends and partners around the world,” Kelly told Wallace. “We are going to, in a process of defining this, we’re going to raise the bar for aviation security much higher than it is right now.”
In a move sure to frustrate travelers as much as an electronic device ban, Kelly is also considering new rules on how people must pack their carry-on luggage in order to get through security screening at U.S. airports. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently testing procedures that would require passengers to separate their food, electronics and other items into different bins at security checkpoints, Kelly says, largely because travelers are now “stuffing” their carry-on luggage to avoid checked baggage fees.
“They [TSA screeners] can’t tell what’s in the bags anymore,” he said, adding that “he likely will” extend the guidelines to all U.s airports as soon as TSA can work out the “tactics, techniques, and procedures” of the screening process.
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