By Dan Hart and Elizabeth Wasserman
(Updated, 12:01 p.m.)
WASHINGTON - U.S.-bound travelers from some overseas airports are being asked to turn on mobile phones and other devices under enhanced security measures from the Transportation Security Administration.
Electronic devices that don’t power up won’t be permitted on board the aircraft, and the passenger may be subject to further screening, the TSA said Sunday in a statement.
The change was instituted after U.S. warnings that new harder-to-detect bombs could fool airport scanners. Scrutiny of travelers is being heightened as the conflict in the Middle East prompts an increased flow of Western jihadists amid an alliance of al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists in Syria and Yemen.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson directed the TSA last week to upgrade screenings at some overseas airports with direct flights to the United States. Some airports including London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest, stepped up security checks with unspecified measures in response to the U.S. warnings.
“DHS continually assesses the global threat environment and re-evaluates the measures we take to promote aviation security,” Johnson said in a statement July 2. “We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible.”
Johnson said the enhanced aviation security includes “a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by an evolving environment.”
The U.S. long has required domestic passengers to remove shoes and put any liquids in plastic bags for separate scanning, in response to intelligence information about possible new bomb-making threats from terrorists.
“Our job is to try to anticipate the next attack, not simply react to the last one,” Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “And so we continually evaluate the world situation. And we know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States. And aviation security is a large part of that.”
Johnson didn’t specify which airports had been asked to improve security on electronic devices. He said the requests to foreign governments and airport authorities were an extension of domestic protections.
“I believe that we’ve taken the appropriate measures to deal with the existing situating and not unnecessarily burden the traveling public,” Johnson said.