DHS Chief Hints Laptop Ban May Not Be Extended Right Now

laptop ban, DHS, John Kelly
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly testifying last week before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2018 budget. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

It may not be necessary to expand a ban on laptops and other large electronics in the cabins of many international flights into the United States right now, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Tuesday.

Kelly didn’t rule out an expansion from 10 current airports, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, to all nonstop flights from Europe to the U.S., but he said he has a “fair amount of confidence” that aviation security can be raised enough to limit or eliminate some inconveniences for travelers.

“The good news is, I think … with a fair amount of confidence, that we can raise the level overall of aviation security and not inconvenience the traveling public very much, if at all in some cases, and just really add to the security and get our arms around” the situation, Kelly said.

He said if he wasn’t so confident, “I would increase the ban,” adding that new technologies are being developed that will help enhance air travel security.

Kelly was speaking at the International Summit on Borders in Washington and was asked about consulting with airlines and others before security policies are changed.

Homeland Security first banned laptops and other large electronics from the cabins of flights headed to the United States from 10 cities in March amid concerns about an undisclosed threat described only as sophisticated and ongoing. The current ban applies to nonstop flights to the United States from Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The roughly 50 affected flights are on foreign airlines.

Since the initial ban was put in place, Kelly has said several times that he was considering an expansion to flights from Europe. Late last month, Kelly said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday that he was considering expanding the ban to all flights in and out of the U.S.

Airlines and others in the aviation industry have balked at the possible expansion, and U.S. officials have held multiple talks with officials overseas about what changes might be made in the future.

An electronics ban affecting nonstop flights from Europe would impact as many as 400 daily flights carrying about 85,000 passengers.

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