Stepped-up screening targets fliers from 'terror-prone' lands

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 4, 2010

All travelers flying to the United States from other countries will face increased random screening, and all passengers from more than a dozen terrorism-prone nations will be patted down and have their carry-on bags searched, under new rules the Obama administration said will take effect Monday morning.

The changes greatly beef up screening standards for all U.S.-bound travelers and are in response to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day. The Nigerian man suspected in the attack boarded an Amsterdam flight headed to Detroit. But in keeping with previous protocols, he and other passengers were screened by a magnetometer, which did not detect the explosives he was allegedly carrying in his underwear.

The Transportation Security Administration notified airline carriers Sunday of the changes for all flights entering the United States -- with an emphasis on a "full body pat-down and physical inspection of property" for all people who are citizens of or are flying through or from nations with significant terrorist activity. TSA officials declined to name all the "countries of interest" on Sunday, but confirmed that the directive applies to the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The department's Web site lists Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism. A senior administration official identified the following as terrorism-prone nations or countries of interest to U.S. intelligence agencies: Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.

"Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued new security directives to all United States and international air carriers with inbound flights to the U.S. effective January 4, 2010," TSA spokesman Greg Soule said. "The new directive includes long-term sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners."

In practice, a person with a Yemeni passport or a passenger flying through or from Yemen would be subjected to a body inspection or scan.

"Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S.-bound international flights," Soule said.

TSA officials said screening standards for U.S.-bound passengers are enforced and monitored by TSA personnel and foreign security inspectors around the world. Carriers generally are careful to abide by the rules, to avoid being banned from travel to the United States.

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