May 3, 2018 / 11:15 PM / 22 days ago

U.S. asks foreign airports to strengthen passenger electronics screening

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants foreign airports to tighten screening of U.S.-bound passengers’ carry-on electronics and adopt U.S. domestic security procedures instituted last year, according to officials and a memo to foreign airports.

Amid growing concerns about the possibility of hidden explosives, TSA began stricter scrutiny of electronic devices by U.S. travelers last summer.

In July 2017, TSA began requiring domestic air travelers to remove all electronics larger than mobile phones including tablets, e-readers and video game consoles from carry-on baggage for screening. The new memo said the agency wants foreign airports now to adopt those procedures.

Foreign airports are also being asked to adopt TSA policy, instituted in mid-2017, that passengers may be required to remove food, powders and other materials “that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine,” the memo said.

“The United States is seeking to collaborate with foreign governments to declutter carry-on bags and strengthen security effectiveness at your central checkpoints,” the TSA said in the memo to foreign airports, government agencies and other entities that was read to Reuters.

U.S. officials said the security enhancements were not the result of new threats.

The memo is aimed at addressing screening of passengers from 280 airports in 105 countries flying to the United States. In total, about 325,000 airline passengers fly to the United States daily on 2,100 flights.

TSA spokesman Matthew Leas said Thursday the agency would not disclose “timelines or methods, but as always, we’ll work closely with our international partners on this to ensure last points of departure airports align with our domestic procedures as a part of our efforts to raise the global aviation security baseline.”

Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, praised the changes. “Any flight coming from overseas should go through the same level of security as flights here in the United States. And if some countries are falling behind on that effort, they need to step it up,” Nelson said.

In June 2017, the United States announced new requirements on foreign flights to end its restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

U.S. authorities in June 2017 also ordered increased security around aircraft, in passenger areas and other places where travelers can be cleared by U.S. officials before they depart as well as additional use of explosive trace detection testing.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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