US steps up screening for fliers

Travellers from terror-linked countries to face enhanced security checks

US steps up screening for fliers

“The new directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners,” said Transportation and Security Administration (TSA), the American agency responsible for protection of transportation system.

“Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world travelling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening,” it said in a statement.

The announcement comes 10 days after Nigerian al-Qaeda-linked bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab managed to bring a highly explosive chemical inside a US plane.
He has been charged with an attempt to blow up a North West Airlines’ Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam carrying 300 people aboard on December 25. The TSA said the heightened security procedures include full-body pat downs before boarding, checking of carry-on baggage and random checks on US-bound flights.

“The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on US-bound international flights,” the TSA said.

‘Countries of Interest’
While the TSA itself did not release the name of the countries, media reports said these nations include those listed by the State Department as ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ and ‘Countries of Interest’.
The countries designated as ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ on the State Department list are Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. On the other hand the “Countries of Interest”, US media reported, include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq.
The new rules will apply to anyone stopping in these 14 nations and passport-holders of these countries.

However, American citizens and foreigners not flying through these nations will not be subject to the enhanced screening, Obama administration officials said.
The new rules also mean that thousands of citizens from any of these 14 nations will also be subject to, in some airports, whole body scanners that can detect explosives below the clothing, which have not been used previously due to privacy concerns.
Following the announcement, several rights group in the US have already voiced their concerns claiming that the new rules are discriminatory and imply that citizens of these 14 nations are to be treated as suspects.

‘Imam Awlaki trying to instigate terror’
The White House has warned that US-born Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki is trying to instigate terrorism and said he was linked with both the Fort Hood shooting on November 5 and the botched attempt to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day, reports PTI from Washington.
“Awlaki is a problem. He’s clearly a part of the al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula. He’s not just a cleric. He is in fact trying to instigate terrorism,” John Brennan, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, told the CNN in an interview on Sunday.

Security breach at Newark delays flights
Authorities are searching for a man who went the wrong way through a checkpoint at the Newark, New Jersey, airport, forcing its closure and delaying several flights, including some to India.

The security breach happened at about 5:30 pm on Sunday (4 am IST on Monday) at Terminal C, when a person walked from the public side to the secure “sterile” side for passengers who had cleared screening, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

No flights were allowed to leave from Terminal C on Sunday evening and thousands of other travellers who had reached the sterile area after going through checkpoints were moved back to the public area to be re-screened, the TSA said.
Authorities are reviewing video from airport cameras. They are not sure whether the man was once on the sterile side and went back, or if he never went through screening, TSA spokeswoman Anne Davis said.

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