The United States is considering extending its ban on passengers carrying laptops in aircraft cabins to cover all international planes arriving in and leaving from the US, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has said, in response to terrorism threats that could potentially involve bombs hidden in large electronic devices.
When asked by Fox News whether the US would ban laptops on all international flights both into and out of the US, Kelly said, "I might".
"There's a real threat, numerous threats against aviation. That's really the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists; the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a US carrier, particularly if it's full of mostly US folks, people. It's real," Kelly said on Sunday night.
"We are working incredibly close with friends and partners around the world. We're going to, and in the process of defining this, but we are going to raise the bar for generally speaking aviation security much higher than it is now.
"And there's new technologies down the road, not too far down the road that we will rely on. But it is a real, sophisticated threat, and I will reserve that decision until we see where it's going."
Kelly explained that this will also involve tightening carry-on bagging screening processes to help the Transport Security Administration (TSA) look more carefully into overfilled, cluttered bags.
"The more you stuff in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what's in those bags through the monitors, they can't tell what's in the bags anymore," Kelly explained.
"What we're doing now is working out the tactics, techniques, and procedures, if you will, in a few airports to find out exactly how to do that with the least amount of inconvenience to the traveller."
The TSA is testing these new screening procedures at several airports in the US, involving passengers removing additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.
Kelly said the US "might, and likely will" expand these TSA screening procedures nationwide.
On Friday, Kelly had also told Fox News that if most people knew the security threats to the US, they would "never leave the house".
The statements from Kelly followed reports by the Guardianlast month that the US was considering extending its aircraft cabin laptop ban to passengers travelling to the US from the United Kingdom and Europe.
Governments in the US and the UK had initially introduced the electronics ban in March, affecting passengers arriving from majority-Muslim nations. The airports affected were those in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE; Amman, Jordan; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Istanbul, Turkey; and Cairo, Egypt.
Under the regulations, those on flights departing certain airports are required to pack electronic devices with dimensions larger than 16x9.3x1.5cm into checked luggage rather than carrying them on-board, excepting medical equipment.
The regulations followed reports that alleged terrorism groups were looking to hide explosives inside of large electronic devices, although neither the UK nor US governments gave clear details to the public at the time of the announcement.
The US government later said it had "evaluated intelligence" pointing towards terrorists "aggressively pursuing" methods for carrying out foreign attacks, with the UK government adding that the measures were "necessary, effective, and proportionate".
United States President Donald Trump's administration had previously attempted to ban all flights from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya into the US, which faced widespread criticism and opposition before being shut down by the courts.
Australia said it was considering implementing a similar laptop ban earlier this month.
"The government is aware of the changes that have been made and, you know, we are looking at it very closely," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
Turnbull added that the Australian government is presently considering advice and information that it is "receiving internationally", as well as "working very closely with our partners" on the proposal.