The Trump administration is reportedly considering putting an electronic device ban on flights from the U.K. to the United States. According to The Guardian, U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to extend the electronic ban, under which any electronic device larger than a smartphone is restricted and removed from luggage.
Trump administration considering electronic ban for the U.K.
Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for Department of Homeland Security, told The Guardian that the evaluation of the threat environment will continue, and the decision will be based on that assessment. As of now, they have not decided yet whether the current restrictions will be applied to U.S.-bound aircraft from other countries as well.
In March, both the U.S. and U.K. announced an electronic device ban for passengers coming from majority-Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan. The rule required passengers to pack their devices in checked baggage on flights from the affected airports. All these countries have strong relationships with the United States, and none were covered under the failed ban rule for six Muslim nations.
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The ban was reportedly enacted after reports that militant groups are looking to smuggle explosives inside electronic devices. However, no details were made public at the time of the announcement. Later, it was confirmed that the government was not making the decision based on a new threat; rather, it is an ongoing one. A senior U.S. administration official also stated that “evaluated intelligence” suggests terrorists are “aggressively pursuing” diverse ways to carry out attacks such as hiding the explosives in the electronic devices, notes CNET.
However, it is not clear why U.S. authorities would want to extend the ban on tablets, laptops and e-readers to U.S.-bound flights from the U.K.
A financial angle?
Limiting electronic devices to checked baggage for flights from the Middle East has worked in favor of U.S. carriers, whereas it has proven expensive for Gulf rivals such as Etihad, Qatar Airways and Emirates. U.S. airlines have long complained that these carriers benefit from unfair government subsidies, and their American counterparts such as Delta and United could not compete. However, all three Gulf airlines have denied that they receive any such favors from the country, notes The Guardian.
Whether or not the ban on electronic device will control the threat influx in the country remains to be seen, but technology experts are already criticizing the ban, arguing that it is at odds with basic computer science.
Last month, Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “It doesn’t match a conventional threat model. If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold.”
Also at that time, a statement by the American Civil Liberties Union called the electronic ban “discriminatory.”