White House gives senators classified briefing on flight electronics ban

White House gives senators classified briefing on flight electronics ban
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Senators received a classified briefing from the Trump administration on aviation threats Thursday morning, as officials weigh expanding a carry-on laptop ban to include all U.S.-bound flights from Europe.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly met with “a group of Senators from relevant oversight Committees in a secure setting this morning to discuss numerous DHS activities to protect the homeland,” an agency spokesman said. “This included discussing threats to aviation.”

Several members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, including Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonI'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Barnes raises over million in final quarter of 2021 Sen. Ron Johnson: Straight from the horse's mouth MORE (R-Wis.) and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRedistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ariz.), were in attendance, while other lawmakers who couldn’t attend sent staff members in their place.

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“I was at the classified brief this morning, and I can’t comment on it,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told The Hill when asked about the electronics ban.

“I don’t have detail for you,” added Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenSenate Republicans call on Biden to lift vaccine mandate for truckers crossing Canadian border Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Native solar startups see business as activism Religious institutions say infrastructure funds will help model sustainability MORE (R-N.D.). “Through Homeland Security we’re getting information on that.”

The Daily Beast reported this week that the administration has decided to ban laptops on all U.S.-bound flights from Europe amid increasing concern over terrorists trying to hide explosives in consumer electronics. European security officials reportedly said a formal announcement was expected Thursday, just ahead of the busy summer travel season.

The DHS confirmed that it has been considering expanding the current ban on large electronics on certain flights from the Middle East and Africa, and officials have reportedly been meeting regularly with U.S. airlines to consider the impacts of such a move.

The DHS initially imposed the electronics ban on inbound flights coming from 10 different airports in Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. 

Under the policy, passengers are prohibited from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone — such as laptops, tablets, cameras and portable DVD players — into cabins of select flights, but can still stow the items in checked luggage.

It’s unclear whether the European ban would include tablets.

Senior administration officials said the new security protocols come in response to intelligence that indicates terrorist groups are “aggressively pursuing innovative methods” to smuggle explosive devices onto commercial flights.

The U.S. government has long been concerned about terrorists hiding explosives in consumer electronics and trying to build bombs with little or no metal, but new intelligence may have spurred the recent airline action.

The electronics ban has worried travel advocates, who fear it will hurt global business and tourism.

A number of Gulf carriers impacted by the policy have come up with workarounds, such as offering loaner laptops on flights or allowing passengers to check large electronics at the gate just prior to boarding.