TSA adds strict air cargo scrutiny from five predominantly Muslim countries


Citing the increased threat of a bomb being smuggled on board an aircraft bound for the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued an emergency order requiring stricter scrutiny of air cargo, effective Monday morning.

TSA says the changes are being implemented based on threat assessments conducted on each country, and each were selected because of "a demonstrated intent by terrorist groups to attack aviation from them".

Many airlines already voluntarily comply with the ACAS protocol - but it will now be mandatory for cargo from the five countries.

Six airlines, including EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Qatar, Saudi, Emirates and Etihad, serving the United States from seven airports will be subject to the AirCargo Advanced Screening, or ACAS, protocol.

Carriers must submit advance air cargo data to United States authorities.

Some of the restricted countries were also subject to a ban on laptops coming into the US this summer, before they complied with more stringent security standards set out by the Department of Homeland Security.

All cargo on commercial flights already undergoes security screening.

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TSA said the goal is to spot shipments which are out of the ordinary.

As a result of that change, passengers flying to the USA from 10 airports aboard nine airlines from eight countries in Africa and the Middle East were required to stow electronics larger than 6 inches long, 4 inches wide and a half-inch deep in the cargo hold of the planes.

Military-grade explosives sent from Turkey via air cargo ended up in Sydney, destined for an Etihad Airways flight to Abu Dhabi.

It comes as the Trump administration has been working to increase global airport security.

The emergency order, referred to by TSA officials as an emergency amendment, builds on continuing concern about a bomb concealed in a large personal electronic device like a laptop that may not be easily detectable by some screening equipment. "There's enough out there, enough threat streams, that give us enough concern that we need to move forward with this as quickly as possible", said a TSA official familiar with the current threat intelligence.

Turkey is the only other country required to participate in ACAS, CBS reported, noting the Trump administration may widen the regulations to affect all air cargo bound for the U.S.