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Op-Ed: U.S. introduces extra security measures at overseas airports

By Ken Hanly     Jul 4, 2014 in Travel
Washington - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will implement "enhanced security measures" at airports overseas with direct flight to the United States.
Officials are rather vague on the details of the move but European airports appear among the prime targets as Americans worry that their may be a threat from some who hold EU and US passports who have been to Syria. Recently US officials have expressed concern about US and EU passport holders who have joined ISIS in Iraq or Syria. As the US becomes more involved in Iraq to help defeat ISIS, the group may try to mount terror attacks involving airplanes to punish the Americans, although present intelligence would indicate that the plots are by rival "officially supported" Al Qaeda groups. Al Qaeda has disowned ISIS.
One concern is that militants may use Western passports in order to circumvent watch lists of terrorists. Jeh Johnson, the HSA secretary, promised that steps would be taken to ensure that there was little inconvenience to passengers traveling on the busy fourth of July weekend. Johnson said: "DHS continually assesses the global threat environment and reevaluates the measures we take to promote aviation security, As part of this ongoing process, I have directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States. We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible." Johnson said that HSA was sharing intelligence with allies and also consulting the aviation industry:
"These communications are an important part of our commitment to providing our security partners with situational awareness about the current environment and protecting the traveling public, Aviation security includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by an evolving environment. As always, we will continue to adjust security measures to promote aviation security without unnecessary disruptions to the traveling public."
Philip Breedlove, a US Air Force general, said earlier this week that he had "great concern" of a terrorist attack that might originate in Syria and involve someone with a European or US passport as the flow of people from western Iraq and eastern Syria into Europe posed a problem.
The enhanced security measures will include checking smart phones and shoes. US officials apparently have intelligence that bomb-makers from Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) may have been able to turn smart phones into explosive devices that avoid detection. The officials are specifically concentrating on Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones for extra security checks. One wonders why this information would be revealed. Perhaps it is to ensure that the bomb-makers use other phones and they actually will need to concentrate less on the common phones listed. There are worries also that the bomb-makers may have made improvements to their bomb-in-shoe technology. Airlines that do not strengthen security as demanded could face bans on flights to the US. Officials said that delays in airports with less sophisticated infrastructure and security processes could face disruptions. A spokesperson for United AIrlines said: "We work closely with federal officials on security matters, but we are not able to discuss the details of those efforts."
Apparently the US think that AQAP bomb-makers in Yemen are co-operating with the Al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria in plots to bomb EU or US bound flights with bombs concealed in foreign fighters who would have Western passports. The infamous Yemen bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri. made the underwear bomb among others. The US tried to kill him in an ambush in Yemen but he turned out not to be there, even though at first the US said that a dog had identified him. If the US begins to launch attacks on ISIS there may be even more attempts to hit back at the US. At least one unit of Jabhat al-Nusra has already switched to ISIS.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Transportation Security Administration, Department homeland security, Airport security
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