WASHINGTON – Travelers boarding aircraft with smartphones and laptop computers may have to prove that the devices have a charged battery and can power up, to demonstrate that they have not been modified to contain explosives, U.S. authorities said Sunday.
Travelers bound for the U.S. from airports in Europe and the Middle East have faced tighter screening in recent days over fears that militants linked to global Islamist terrorist network al-Qaida are developing new explosives that could pass current security procedures undetected.
The checks will focus on commonly carried electronic items, amid fears that al-Qaida or other groups could use them in attempts to attack airliners.
“During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cellphones,” the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said in a statement, noting that all electronic devices are now screened by security officers.
“Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”
The agency noted that it could “adjust” security measures further to provide maximum security to travelers.
The Department of Homeland Security, of which the TSA is part, is also asking that airlines and airport authorities in Europe and elsewhere examine the shoes of passengers headed for the United States and increase random screenings of travelers, ABC News reported.
It cited one source as saying the unspecified threat was “different and more disturbing than past aviation plots.”
“We felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point-of-departure airports,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told a U.S. TV network.