Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Wednesday announced enhanced security measures for airlines, amid “renewed” terrorist interest in targeting planes and airports.
“The threat has not diminished. In fact, I am concerned that we are seeing renewed interest on the part of terrorist groups to go after the aviation sector —from bombing aircraft to attacking airports on the ground,” Kelly said at a security conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security.
Kelly announced that all incoming commercial flights to the U.S. would face enhanced security measures, both seen and unseen, over the next several weeks and months.
He said the move comes “in light of evaluated intelligence,” but did not specify. In March, he banned all electronic devices bigger than a cell-phone from passenger cabins on flights to the U.S. from 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
He said the new measures included enhanced screening of passengers and personal electronic devices, and heightened security standards for aircraft and airports.
He specifically mentioned expanded canine screening and establishing “preclearance locations,” where international travelers go through customs and border security screening before boarding their flights to the U.S.
According to a DHS fact sheet, 105 countries will be affected, approximately 280 airports, and 180 airlines, an average of 2,100 flights a day, and 325,000 passengers daily.
He said “a number of the measures” can be dialed up or down in a risk-based, intelligence-driven manner.
Kelly said those who fail to adopt the requirements within certain timeframes would face additional restrictions, such as the banning of all electronic devices from the passenger cabins or suspension of flights altogether.
“With this announcement, we send a clear message that inaction is not an option,” Kelly said.
“Those who choose not to cooperate or are slow to adopt the measures could be subject to other restrictions including a ban on electronic devices on aircraft or even a suspension of their flights into the United States,” he said.
He said the DHS will also launch an effort with foreign partners to put into place wider counter-terror improvements, such as better information sharing, expanded exchanges of terrorist watch lists, and more advanced security checks of travelers around the world.
“Our enemies are adaptive and we have to be adaptive as well,” he said. “Again, today is just a starting point.”