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12 January 2010

New Security Measures in Effect for International Flights

As of January 4th, the US government started new security requirements for international flights with a US destination. While some of the measures are temporary, others may be more permanent.

Travelers Subject to Enhanced Screening
The TSA is requiring that everyone flying into the US who is either traveling from or traveling through nations considered to be are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. At present, those countries include Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

This may not represent much of a change. In the security procedures manual that was accidentally released to the public by the TSA last year, on page 81 it listed 12 countries whose citizens were subject to additional screening. Of the 14 listed above, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia were not listed in the earlier procedures manual, and North Korea, which was listed in the procedures manual, was not listed in last week's announcement.

Changes in Prohibited Items
Security requirements for passengers departing US airports remain the same, but additional security measures may be used. TSA will continue to permit prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by persons with disabilities and medical conditions.

The TSA has stated that passengers wearing loose fitting or bulky clothing, including headwear, may be subject to additional screening. If a passengers chooses not to remove bulky clothing or headwear, they may be subject to a pat down search.

When to Arrive at the Airport
The TSA advises passengers on international flights bound to the US allow additional time to get through security, and to check in with their airport or airline for more specific advice.

Other Security Changes
While some changes were required by TSA, individual airlines may have additional rules or restrictions. Some of the ones reported in the last week include turning off electronic equipment remaining seated during an extended period before landing, keeping laps clear of items such as blankets for large portions of the flight, and additional restrictions on when the lavatories can be used. TSA does not manage security for airports outside of US territory, so each country may have additional restrictions and requirements.

Canadian Airports Put on High Alert
Last Saturday, Canadian airports were put on heightened alert after Transport Canada received credible evidence of a new terrorist threat. A member of the audience who traveled from Canada to the US in the last couple of days said that in addition to a pat down search and a search of carry on bags, laptop bags with wheels were not allowed on board. While it may have been to prevent travelers from claiming that a bag was a laptop bag and not a carry on, the rule has also been enforced for true laptop cases that happen to have wheels. This new rule forced the person who submitted this report to exit the secure area, spend $140 for a new laptop case, and clear customs a second time.

Additional Resources
Permitted and Prohibited Items

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