Monday, March 20, 2017

The US Is Banning Laptops And Tablets On Flights From Major Middle Eastern Airports
The ban will apply to nonstop inbound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. “It appears to be a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts,” a former US official said.

Mar. 20, 2017, at 10:11 p.m.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP Getty Images

The US is barring passengers from bringing laptops, tablet computers, and other electronic devices as carry-on items on non-stop flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

The ban was revealed Monday after two Middle Eastern airlines began telling passengers about the new restrictions. A representative of Saudi Arabian Airlines, based at JFK International Airport in New York, told BuzzFeed News that the ban begins immediately, and covers all electronic devices, excluding cell phones. The airline said the ban applies on flights headed to the US.

The representative declined to answer further questions and said inquiries should be directed to the Transportation Security Administration.

The ban will hit every major air travel hub in the Middle East, including the home airports of global airline industry giants like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines. A US official told the Associated Press that the ban covers all direct flights to to the US from Cairo, Egypt; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul, Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

All these countries are US allies, many of them crucial ones: Turkey is a NATO member, Egypt is the second-largest recipient of American military aid and Qatar hosts the forward operating headquarters of the US Central Command. Dubai’s airport is the world’s busiest for international passenger traffic, while Abu Dhabi’s is so trusted that US customs and immigration checks are conducted there.

Details of the ban will be announced on Tuesday, NBC News reported, saying such changes to security rules “are made periodically in response to threat intelligence, and laptop computers have long been the source of concern.”

The devices banned from the cabin will need to be packed in checked baggage. Former officials said the use of certain electronic devices in the flight cabin has presented a longstanding threat, but some questioned why action is being taken now.

“If this is true, the threat of attempts to disguise explosives within laptops and other large electronic devices carried through the last point of departure airports bound for the United States is not new.

What appears to be new is this latest overreaction,” a former administration official familiar with aviation security procedures told BuzzFeed News. “It appears to be a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts.”

For as many as two years, US officials have trained airport security personnel across the Middle East on how to search for explosives, the former official said.

“It’s an unnecessary piece of overreach that is a kind of punishment meted out to a group rather than a targeted application of reasonable security measures,” the person said.

The TSA referred inquiries on the matter to the Department of Homeland Security. A Homeland Security spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide an update when appropriate.”

A Republican aide to the House Homeland Security committee confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Chairman Michael McCaul and committee members had been briefed on the issue, but could not provide additional details.

Adam Comis, a spokesperson for Democrats on the committee, said ranking member Bennie Thompson had been briefed but Comis said he could not provide more details about the ban either.

Royal Jordanian Airlines informed passengers of a ban coming into effect on Tuesday. “Following instructions from the concerned US departments,” it said in a tweet, all electronics are banned on US-bound flights, with an exception for cell phones and medical devices.

That tweet has since been deleted. In a response to inquiries from BuzzFeed News, a representative said “further updates will be announced soon.”

As of Monday night, not all members of the Homeland Security committee had been briefed on the security changes.

“I have not been briefed yet, but it’s a conversation that’s happening,” one member told BuzzFeed News. The committee will be briefed on Wednesday, the person said.

JFK-based representatives of Dubai’s Emirates Airline and Doha-based Qatar Airways said they had not heard of any changes. BuzzFeed News has reached out to other Middle Eastern and African airlines, and will update this article when responses are received.

BuzzFeed News reporters Emma Loop, Lissandra Villa and Nancy Youssef contributed to this report from Washington, DC.

Leticia Miranda is a consumer affairs reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Leticia Miranda at

Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.

Contact Matthew Zeitlin at

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