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An expansion of the U.S. government’s in-flight ‘laptop ban’ is still possible, official says

DHS Secretary John Kelly told lawmakers the government is reviewing potential threats.

President Trump Meets With Cyber Security Experts At White House
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (r)
Chip Somodevilla / Getty

The Trump administration still has not ruled out expanding a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices that currently applies to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, U.S. officials have contemplated whether to extend their policy — which requires passengers to store items larger than a smartphone in their checked luggage — to include trips that originate in Europe. The discussions have come in light of reports that groups like the Islamic State have sought to hide bombs inside laptops.

Appearing on Capitol Hill today, John Kelly, the secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, didn’t discuss Europe directly, but he did affirm the agency hasn’t ruled out applying the ban to other airports and countries.

“We are watching a number of very, very sophisticated, advanced threats right now,” Kelly told lawmakers.

“But as we look at the threat and how it’s morphed, we are looking at perhaps other ways to reinforce the security procedures at every airport in the world,” Kelly continued. He added of the laptop ban: “So, it’s possible that it would expand.”

An expansion of the laptop ban has been met with some skepticism, particularly in the European Union, where safety regulators fear that electronic devices equipped with lithium-ion batteries could catch fire in a plane’s cargo hold. EU officials even huddled with their American counterparts earlier this month to discuss whether to implement a transatlantic device ban — and exiting the meeting, both sides seemed to suggest it was off the table.

Meanwhile, the United States appears to have ramped up security procedures at select domestic airports. However, U.S. officials have said they would not seek to apply a similar ban on large electronic devices to include flights within the country.

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