Feds beef up security after Russian plane crash

Feds beef up security after Russian plane crash

The Department of Homeland Security is taking new security precautions in the wake of last week’s plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula, the latest signal that U.S. officials fear that terrorism blew the airplane out of the sky.

The new security measures are “interim” and “precautionary enhancements” taken “out of an abundance of caution,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson insisted in a statement on Friday afternoon.

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Johnson declined to list the changes in detail, but claimed that they will “provide an additional layer of security for the traveling public, and will be undertaken in consultation with relevant foreign governments and relevant passenger and cargo airlines.”

“These enhancements will supplement U.S. aviation security requirements currently in place,” he added. “Many of those enhancements have also been adopted by our European allies.”

The new measures include expanded screening for items on airplanes, he said, as well as “airport assessments” conducted with the aid of other countries and “offers of other [security] assistance” to some foreign airports. The aid will go to fewer than ten airports in the Middle East, according to the White House.

There are currently no direct commercial flights from any U.S. cities to Sharm el-Sheik, the Egyptian beachside resort town from which Metrojet Flight 9268 took off before the crash on Saturday, killing all 224 people onboard.

The Obama administration is still declining to officially declare that the St. Petersburg-bound Airbus A321 was blown out of the sky by extremists connected to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, the latest security enhancements add to the growing perception that terrorism was the cause of the plane crash.

Multiple airlines around the world have enacted restrictions on their flight patterns to avoid the area where the Metrojet plane crashed. Both the United Kingdom and Russia have also temporarily suspended flights out of growing fears about the security situation.

According to reports, international intelligence officials are warming to the idea that affiliates of ISIS planted a bomb onboard the plane before it took off.

On Thursday, President Obama acknowledged that “there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board,” which the U.S. is taking “very seriously.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that “there's information that is known by the United States government that led the president to make that statement,” but would not elaborate further.

Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill appear willing to believe that ISIS downed the plane through terrorist attack.

However, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Manafort went ‘above and beyond’ with plea deal, says ex-federal prosecutor Kavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report MORE (Calif.) — the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — issued a word of caution on Friday.

“While there are indications that an affiliate of the terrorist group ISIS may have been responsible for placing an explosive on the aircraft, it is also possible given the aircraft's flight history that a structural failure caused the crash,” he said in a statement. 

Jordan Fabian contributed.

- Updated at 2:49 p.m.