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DHS enhances screening of passengers, electronics on international flights

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new measures on Wednesday to increase security measures on 2,100 daily US-bound flights.

DHS Secretary John F. Kelly said it was time to raise the “global baseline of aviation security.” While shying away from specifics, Kelly announced the new measures, including intensified vetting of 325,000 daily passengers and enhanced screening of electronic devices entering the US.

In addition to improved screening tactics, Kelly called on airports to step up their security efforts. “We will also lay out a clear path to encourage airlines and airports to adopt more sophisticated screening approaches, including better use of explosive detection canines and advanced checkpoint screening technology,” he said.

The DHS, he said, will encourage more airports around the globe to become “preclearance locations,” which are stations overseas where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can inspect travelers boarding flights headed to the US. In essence, they would conduct the same inspection and questioning that CBP agents conduct when a plane lands in the US from another country. Currently, the US has 15 preclearance locations in six countries: Ireland, Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

There are 105 countries that have daily flights to the US. Those flights are managed by 180 airlines departing from about 280 different airports around the globe. Kelly was sure to mention that implementing these measures would be a team effort, and that working with foreign partners to improve counterterrorism efforts would be crucial. “This will include better information sharing, expanded exchanges of terrorist watchlists, and more advanced security checks of travelers around the world,” said Kelly.

Those in the aviation industry that are slow to adopt the changes may see a ban on electronic devices on their airplanes, or have their flights to the US suspended, the DHS said.

As for timing, the DHS said these measures will be implemented in phases. For travelers, the moves will be largely unseen. There are no changes to items allowed in carry-on or checked bags. But travelers might find themselves spending more time in security screening.

At airports, the DHS said the TSA will not need to hire additional staff. When it comes to domestic flights, they will remain unaffected because the TSA has taken steps to “mitigate those threats.”  

Still, there are efforts in the US to improve safety on domestic flights. On June 27, American Airlines announced it was investing $6 million to purchase multiple units of the  Analogic ConneCT system, a 3D security scanner. These machines use Computed Tomography (CT) that gives TSA workers 360-degree views of baggage. This enhanced level of detection could allow passengers to leave liquids, gels, and aerosols in their bags. The TSA will also be able to see concealed weapons and explosives, even those hidden within personal electronic devices like laptops.

The ConneCT system is currently being piloted at Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Logan International in Boston.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. 

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