According to a Reuters report, the U.S. government plans to ban passengers from certain countries from taking electronics on planes. The Guardian reports that the new restriction will apply to 13 countries, although it's unclear which ones. Two Middle East-based airlines — Royal Jordanian Airlines and Saudi Arabia airlines — confirmed that effective immediately, passengers on U.S.-bound flights on their airlines won't be allowed to take any electronics on board other than cellphones and medical devices. However, Royal Jordanian Airlines later deleted the tweet confirming the new policy.
In statements to Gizmodo and the Guardian, neither the Transportation and Security Administration nor the Department of Homeland Security, of which the TSA is a part, would confirm or deny the reports. Both agencies said that they have "no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate."
The TSA issued the decree in an email, described as "confidential," to the airlines in question, according to the Guardian. Under the ban, passengers traveling to the United States on those airlines won't be allowed to bring laptops, tablets, e-readers or cameras larger than cellphones on board. CNN aviation correspondent Jon Ostrower said that the ban will apply to at least 13 Middle East- and Africa-based airlines.
BREAKING: U.S. plans to ban passengers from about a dozen countries from carrying most electronic devices on U.S.-bound flights - official pic.twitter.com/Wn1EGiWZn3— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 20, 2017
A U.S. official told the Associated Press that the ban had been under consideration for weeks. Congressional aides said that DHS chief John Kelly informed lawmakers of the new restriction over the weekend.
Sources told Fox News that the ban is a response to intelligence reports that suggest al Qaeda may be trying to find new ways to sneak electronics onto planes. The precise legal status of the ban is unclear, as the Guardian reports that it is not a new public regulation. Airlines were reportedly given 96 hours to comply, but it is not yet known which ones received the order to begin with.
There's a lot that's still unknown about this policy, in fact. CNN reports that the ban will only apply for a "limited duration," but didn't provide details on exactly how long. Meanwhile, one source told CNN that the ban will only apply to electronic devices that are larger than a cellphone; however, this raises the question of whether electronics that are smaller than a cellphone will be allowed. Additionally, the wide variety of cellphones on the market differ substantially in size, so it's unclear how TSA agents could make such a determination.