Homeland Security Will Begin “Heightened Screening” of Phones on All US-Bound Flights

In March, the agency announced a ban on electronics on US-bound flights coming from the Middle East and North Africa.
June 28, 2017, 9:28pm
Image: Shutterstock

If you thought having to put your phone on airplane mode when flying was annoying, brace yourself. Airport screeners are going to start being extra vigilant when it comes to checking electronics carried on US-bound international flights, according to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

"Unless we raise our security standards, terrorists will find a way to attack the weakest link. Today is just a starting point to reduce insider threats and identify suspicious passengers," said Kelly at a press conference Wednesday.


The new measures include "conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices," according to the DHS, as well as "enhancing overall passenger screening," and "deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations." In other words: more officers, more dogs, new tech, and a lot more people's phones being examined.

Reports of American citizens having their phones confiscated at the border, without explanation, have increased over the last few months, and security has been formally increased following a string of terrorist attacks in Europe. In March, the US banned laptops and any electronic bigger than a smartphone from incoming flights 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa, including the following countries: Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

Kelly has previously been vocal about his desire to implement strict protocols around electronics on flights, including considering banning all laptops on all US-flights.

"There's a real threat—numerous threats against aviation," Kelly said in an interview with Fox News in May. "That's really the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a US carrier, particularly if it's full of mostly US folks."

I emailed and called the DHS to get clarity on what, exactly, "heightened screening," would entail, but have not yet gotten a response. We will update this story when we hear back.

Several recent reports show that the US continues to experiment with ways to bolster or change its airport security. In May, a handful of US airports did a trial run of a security measure that required passengers to take books and magazines out of their carry-on luggage during screening, and American Airlines has begun testing a 3D-bag-screener that provides detailed images of passenger's belongings.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .