Gregg Roman on Airline Electronics Ban
March 21, 2017
Middle East Forum director Gregg Roman was interviewed on March 21 by David Shuster of i24 News about the Trump administration's order to nine airlines to bar passengers from bringing many types of electronic devices into the cabin for U.S.-bound flights.
Let's get some insight into this with Gregg Roman. Gregg is the director of the Middle East Forum. And, Gregg, first of all, we understand from intelligence officials that this is based, perhaps on some intelligence intercepts, specific threats about a possible laptop that might be rigged to go off on an airplane. What do you make of this?
Correct. If we look back at the first raid that was carried out by the Trump Administration in Yemen against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula back in January, we see that there was a steady flow of information coming first from bomb makers and intelligence that was intercepted during that raid, and then second from an attack that took place on a flight from Djibouti to Somalia, to Mogadishu airport, where a laptop was actually blown up inside the cabin.
Now, that flight didn't go down, but the combination of signals intelligence, [information] collected during that raid, and the attempted attacks during that time span ... led to this risk being evaluated and these measures being put in place.
Gregg, if there is this fear about this risk, then why are they allowing people to have their handheld iPhones which are, in some cases, just as powerful as these other devices. What's keeping somebody from causing that to be some sort of explosive device?
So the real issue is that the lithium batteries that many of these electronics use and the explosives that can apparently be put together based on the designs that were recovered during these raids [necessitate] a certain size, that of a iPad or that of a laptop. Now, that's not to say that the terrorists have an inability to become more ingenious and put them into a smaller size device, but they are more easily detectable on these devices. ...
You have to mitigate your circumstances by putting [electronic devices] into the hold of the aircraft ... [and thereby obstruct] the electronic charge which is required for detonating a device of that size,
And that gets to the question that I think you just answered, and that is [that] it's more difficult to actually set off one of these devices when it's in the hold as opposed to the passenger compartment because they rely on the electronics on the device to be able to set them off?
Correct, and also the amount of screening that goes on with baggage if you think about what's going through the airport in terms of what's being put into the hold versus what can be manipulated. On board a flight itself, there's a much more higher certitude associated with what someone can do within the cabin of a plane when he has access to it than with something that can be put on board. For instance, most of the devices that go through carry on luggage are not screened for elements or traces of any kind of bomb-making materials. Those which go in the hold of the plane are subject to a higher level of inspection ... . So, this is a measure which is not meant to inconvenience, but is still meant to protect because of this new intelligence that US and UK intelligence agencies have been able to gather.
Related Topics: Counter-terrorism, US policy
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