DHS To Expand Foreign Laptop Ban If Overseas Airlines Won't Make Their Security More Theatrical

from the speak-loudly-and-keep-swinging-that-stick dept

The DHS and TSA are just going to keep making things worse. Despite there being almost no evidence of terrorists targeting planes, the DHS is looking to expand its laptop ban to cover even more incoming flights from foreign airports.

The Trump administration said Wednesday it will ban large electronics on flights to the United States altogether — on board, and in checked bags — unless airlines comply with new directives to ramp up passenger and baggage screening.

The mandate, announced by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, would affect 280 last-point-of-departure airports and as many as 2,000 daily international flights to the United States and potentially throw a huge wrench into business travelers' plans.

The original plan only targeted 10 airports -- mostly in the Middle East. This expansion would cause even more passengers to either leave their laptops/tablets behind, as this ban would prevent them from being placed in checked luggage.

What the DHS is looking for is transplanted security theater performances by foreign airline personnel. Not much was explicitly listed in DHS head John Kelly's speech on Wednesday, but a few DHS officials offered to fill the factual gaps in Kelly's rhetoric.

DHS officials said the agency is broadly pushing airlines and airports to "take the next step" in beefing up security — meaning using more canine teams, adopting more advanced screening technology and enrolling in a Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance inspection program.

And, as always, the burden will be borne by travelers. Airlines are being given some time to make these changes, but there doesn't appear to be a hard deadline for compliance. If foreign airlines don't live up to the DHS's expectations, passengers will presumably be informed about the fate of their electronic devices after they've already taken them to the airport. The DHS encourages foreign travelers to keep themselves apprised of these changes, but doesn't say how they're supposed to obtain this information when making travel plans. All that's being recommended is staying in "close contact" with their airline of choice, which sounds like the sort of pen pal relationship no one's in any hurry to engage in.

European officials are trying to stay on top of the DHS's constantly-shifting demands -- not out of fear of terrorist attacks, but because the laptop ban itself would make flying less safe.

European Commission officials have been especially vocal about their wish to avoid the ban and have repeatedly pointed out the fire risks associated with stacking laptops with flammable lithium batteries in planes' cargo holds…

I guess that's why Kelly wants a total ban. That solves the exploding battery problem, but does nothing for thousands of non-terrorists who need to bring their work with them when visiting the US.

There's no room for logic in security theater. What the US determines to be security best practices will be foisted on the rest of the world -- even though there's nothing in the history of the DHS and TSA suggesting faster, harder "security" will do anything more than irritate travelers.


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  1. identicon
    Ken, 30 Jun 2017 @ 5:55am

    A business opportunity in rented laptops...

    Sounds like a new business opportunity...set up a kiosk in the airport to allow travelers to rent laptops during their stay...or even better maybe, allow the traveler to upload an image of their data to a cloud server. They arrive in the US then and are able to basically get a laptop that is a duplicate of what they left behind for use while they are in country. Then as they depart the drive image is then re upload to the cloud (or at least the changes are). The traveler returns home and updates their laptop with the new info. Downside is no electronics to use on the plane...which may mean airlines can start selling more of their own entertainment. :-) And of course....this is ALL done in a totally secure encrypted environment..... :-)

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