Two affected airlines leaked the news Monday that the United States will announce a ban on electronic devices other than a cell phone in cabins of U.S.-bound flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries.
Royal Jordanian tweeted that all such devices, including laptops, handheld video games, cameras and tablets, would have to be put in checked baggage starting today. The airline then deleted the message, subsequently tweeting, “Further updates will be announced soon regarding #electronicsban.” Saudi Airlines also posted an announcement with the new guidelines, adding Kindles to the banned list, and the kingdom’s official news agency reported on it as well.
Citing an unnamed U.S. official, the Associated Press reported that the indefinite ban will apply to nonstop flights from international airports in Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Doha, Riyadh, Jeddah, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The rules won’t apply to U.S. airlines coming from the Middle East, but only foreign carriers coming from affected countries.
The Transportation Security Administration reportedly was in charge of disseminating the new rules. There was reportedly early confusion about whether flight crews are affected under the ban as well.
A federal official, who said the ban was in response to an unspecified threat assessment, told NBC News that Royal Jordanian leaked the news too early, and may not have relayed the details correctly.
The Department of Homeland Security had not issued any release on the guidelines; a spokesman told the Guardian that “we have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.” An official announcement is now expected today, the same day the rules go into effect.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN on Monday evening that his panel had not been briefed on the ban or reason behind it, but “the Department of Homeland Security is looking at this issue.”
“We do all know from other news reports of not just about this, that there has been some concern for some time about electronic items being used to hide explosive devices and their threats to airline traffic,” Turner said.
The congressman added, “When you look at, you know, how, you know, those who seek to do us home have progressed, everything from the shoe bomber forward, you know, this is all about getting the intelligence we need, applying it to, you know, the type of protections and interventions that we can do, and then trying to lessen that threat and this certainly sounds like it can be part of that.”