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Mike Shedlock

Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. He operates the blog MISH'S Global Economic Trend Analysis and believes in the Austrian School of economics.


Total Airplane Laptop Ban Coming or Not? What are the Issues?

3 months ago




Following intelligence reports that ISIS may be planning to attack airlines with laptop computers rigged as bombs, Trump initiated a ban on laptops on some flights from some airports.

Rumors had it that the ban was going to be extended to make things “uniformly fair”.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed, for now.

Laptop Ban on All Flights?

The Cost

CNNMoney reported Laptop ban in Europe could cost airline passengers $1 billion.

Laptop Q&A

USA Today provides a Q&A: How does the laptop ban on flights work?

Millions of additional travelers could be affected by a new plan to ban laptops, tablets and other large electronic devices from the cabins of trans-Atlantic flights, a move U.S. and European security officials have been discussing in recent days.

The proposal would expand an existing ban implemented in March that applies to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Here is what you need to know:

Why is the ban needed?

Homeland Security officials say terrorists are trying to smuggle explosives onto planes in “various consumer items,” and experts say explosives could be concealed within the electronics and battery compartments of consumer devices. The devices are still allowed to be placed in checked baggage.

What about the threat of items in the cargo hold?

The British Airline Pilots’ Association says it’s worried this ban could lead to more accidental fires in cargo holds, posing a greater risk than that of terrorism. Spare lithium batteries are already banned from cargo holds over concerns that they can cause intense, fast-growing fires without being seen belowdecks, and accidental fires cased by lithium batteries have been cited in two crashes, the association said.

Have bombs been concealed in electronic devices before?

Yes. On June 23, 1985, a bomb concealed inside a radio inside a checked bag exploded onboard an Air India flight from Montreal to London while over Irish airspace, killing all 329 people aboard. And Pam Am Flight 103 was blown up by terrorists on Dec. 21, 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland shortly after takeoff. A bomb concealed inside a tape recorder inside checked luggage brought the plane down, killing 259 people aboard, along with 11 people on the ground.

What airports are affected?

Right now, the ban applies only to U.S.-bound flights from 10 foreign airports. They are:

  • Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), in Amman
  • JordanCairo International Airport (CAI), in Cairo
  • EgyptAtaturk International Airport (IST), in Istabul
  • TurkeyKing Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED), in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • King Khalid International Airport (RUH), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International Airport (KWI), Farwaniya, Kuwait
  • Mohammed V Airport (CMN), Casablanca, Morocco
  • Hamad International Airport (DOH), Doha, Qatar
  • Dubai International Airport (DXB), Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), Abu Dhabi
  • United Arab Emirates

The ban applies to specific airports, not individual airlines.

Brussels Logic – Everyone Must Suffer

The Financial Times cited a senior EU diplomat as follows: “When you have a kettle and you are making porridge, you cannot make it thicker in one corner of the kettle. It is the same with flight security. Why should [EU-US] flights be restricted and more secure than the ones to Thailand or Egypt?”

Fortunately, common sense ruled. How long that lasts remains to be seen.

The Real Issue

The real issue is that security forces and scanners have a hard time finding bombs in laptops. On April 21, CNN reported New terrorist laptop bombs may evade airport security, intel sources say.

US intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe that ISIS and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that FBI testing shows can evade some commonly used airport security screening methods, CNN has learned.

Heightening the concern is US intelligence suggesting that terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to effectively conceal explosives in laptops and other electronic devices. The intelligence, gathered in the last several months, played a significant role in the Trump administration’s decision to prohibit travelers flying out of 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa from carrying laptops and other large electronic devices aboard planes.

Aviation security expert Robert Liscouski, a former Homeland Security assistant secretary for infrastructure protection, said limiting the ban to eight countries makes sense based on the capability and locations of terrorist groups.

When the electronics ban was announced, US officials told CNN they were concerned that terrorists had developed ways to hide explosives in battery compartments. But the new intelligence makes clear that the bomb-makers working for ISIS and other groups have become sophisticated enough to hide the explosives while ensuring a laptop would function long enough to get past screeners. Though advanced in design, FBI testing found that the laptops could be modified using common household tools.

Intelligence officials received a wake-up call in February 2016, when an operative from al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in Somali, detonated a laptop bomb on a Daallo Airlines flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti. The explosives were hidden in a part of the laptop where bomb-makers had removed a DVD drive, according to investigators. Airport workers helped smuggle the bomb on the plane after it passed through an X-ray machine. In that case, the bomber was blown out of the airplane but the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing. However, experts have said the bomb would have been more devastating had the plane reached cruising altitude.

The military and intelligence community has grown increasingly concerned in the last few months about the potential ability of terror groups to get bombs on board airplanes, according to several US officials. The US has been tracking specific intelligence from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda in Syria and ISIS, officials said.

The group with the greatest level of bomb-making expertise is al Qaeda in Yemen. Its master bomb-maker, Ibrahim al Asiri, has worked for years on designing explosive devices that can be hidden on bodies or in items such as printer cartridges. Since 2014, US officials have been concerned that Asiri’s expertise had migrated to other groups.

Brussels vs Trump

The Brussels solution would be to ban all laptops. Trump’s solution was a selective ban, far more practical.

What needs to happen is to figure out why we cannot detect bombs in laptops.

Top Secret?

Finally, the recent bruhaha regarding Trump was that he shared “Top Secret” information with Russia.

That alleged “Top Secret” information was in regards to ISIS having plans to use laptop bombs on airplanes. Russia likely knew everything Trump stated.

Media Witch Hunt

As long as Trump did not disclose sources, we should all be thankful Trump shared this information with Russia.

Instead, we see a media witch hunt and increased calls for impeachment. For more on the Trump Witch hunt please see …

  1. “Terrifying, Reckless, and Deeply Disturbing” Reports: High on Stupidity
  2. Impeachment Odds Approximately Zero: What’s the Real Reason for Today’s Decline?
  3. Special Counsel Named to Investigate Trump and Russia: What’s the Real Mission?

Mike “Mish” Shedlock