Washington, D.C.

TSA tests new screening procedures for larger electronics

Comes amid heightened security at airports

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration is testing new procedures at nearly a dozen U.S. airports that will require passengers to place electronic items larger than a cellphone in a separate bin for X-ray screening, the agency announced Wednesday.

The new screening tests come amid heightened security at airports around the world and fears that terrorist groups are developing plans to attack flights heading to the United States or Europe.

In March, U.S. and British officials announced a ban on electronic items larger than a cellphone aboard certain direct inbound flights after intelligence reports surfaced showing that the Islamic State had developed — or would soon be able to develop — the technology to build a bomb that could be hidden in a laptop.

That ban applied to 10 predominantly Muslim countries stretching from North Africa to the Middle East, including some airports in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

A similar ban is under consideration for inbound flights from Europe, Homeland Security Department officials said.

There is no timetable for a final decision on the expanded ban, said David Lapan, a spokesman for the department.

Passengers at the airports where the tests are occurring are asked to place items like e-readers and tablets in a separate bin, similar to the way laptops are screened.

Officials said the new screening procedures had been in the works for nearly two years and were not in response to an imminent threat but were rather part of continuing counterterrorism efforts.

“TSA’s top priority is to protect the traveling public, and every policy and security procedure in place is designed to mitigate threats to passengers and the aviation sector — which we know our adversaries continue to target,” said Darby LaJoye, the transportation agency’s assistant administrator for security operations.

Officials said that while the new screening would lead to more bag checks, the agency was testing quicker and more targeted procedures, which should keep security lines from becoming backed up. The screening will not apply to all lanes at the airports and will not be used for PreCheck, the expedited screening lanes, officials said.

TSA officers will be available in front of X-ray machines to guide passengers through the screening process and advise what items will need to be removed from carry-on baggage and placed in a bin for separate X-ray screening, the agency said.

The agency said it had no immediate plans to roll out the new screening procedures at all airports.

The test locations include airports of varying sizes, the agency said. The airports include midsize ones in Colorado Springs and Boise, Idaho, as well as Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas.

Larger airports include Detroit Metropolitan; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida; Logan International in Boston; Los Angeles International; Luis Muñoz Marín International in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and McCarran International in Las Vegas.

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