CHICAGO (CBS) — Growing fears about terrorists sneaking a bomb into cargo on a plane bound for the U.S. have prompted the Trump administration to issue a new order requiring closer scrutiny of air cargo from five predominantly Muslim countries.
Starting Monday, all cargo on flights headed to the U.S. with a final departure point Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will be subject to the new requirements, according to the order from TSA Administrator David Pekoske.
“These countries were chosen because of a demonstrated intent by terrorist groups to attack aviation from them,” said a TSA official familiar with the order, CBS News reports. “This is all intel driven.”
Federal authorities are particularly concerned about terrorists trying to hide a bomb inside a laptop, or some other electronic device. They also are concerned previous procedures in place were not strict enough, and might not catch a problematic shipment.
Officials also are looking for anomalies in cargo shipments, such as someone paying $1,000 to ship a $100 item that is readily available in the U.S. That kind of package would likely warrant further inspection.
Six airlines — EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Qatar, Saudi, Emirates and Etihad — serving the U.S. from seven airports are now required to comply with Air Cargo Advance Screening protocols. Known as ACAS, it is typically a voluntary program, that provides the TSA and Customs and Border Protection with advanced information about all cargo those carriers plan to bring to the United States.
All cargo loaded on an airplane already undergoes security screening. The new measures will give TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection specific additional information in advance of cargo being loaded onto a U.S.-bound flight. The carriers will be required to provide details like where a parcel was sent from, who sent it, where it’s been since it was mailed, how it was sent, where its going, and its contents. That is a similar level of “total asset visibility” that comes with a package sent through FedEx or UPS.
TSA said most of the requirements of the emergency order are already being carried out voluntarily by airlines in some countries, but didn’t identify the countries.
The Trump administration is considering implementing the same rules for all cargo shipments on airplanes headed to the U.S.
Airlines that TSA said are affected by the order are EgyptAir, operating out of Cairo International Airport; Royal Jordanian, operating out of Queen Alia International Airport; Saudia, operating out of King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and King Khalid International Airport; Qatar Airways, operating out of Doha International Airport; and Emirates and Etihad, operating out of Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport. EgyptAir, however, previously stopped accepting cargo shipments on flights to the U.S. at the request of American authorities.
Under the requirements of the order, airlines are supposed to provide certain information to U.S. customs officials on the shipments “at the earliest practical point” before loading the cargo. The shipment information is then compared to information the U.S. has on terror threats.
A foiled plot last summer to smuggle a bomb aboard an Etihad plane bound from Australia to UAE is “an ominous reminder” that “we need to continue our efforts to keep our skies secure,” the agency said.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)