The devices were banned on flights from some countries as they were flagged as potential threats by information services

The United States and the United Kingdom banned laptops and tablets on flights of companies from several Arab countries and Turkey, claiming a risk of “terrorist” attacks. Why these electronic devices are considered a threat?

Why such a measure?

Decisions taken by the US authorities and enforced by the TSA are usually the result of threats identified by the intelligence services, according to AFP Jean-Charles Brisard, president of the Center Analysis of Terrorism.

“Some groups like AQAP (Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) have been trying for many years to adapt progressively to the security measures applied by the United States and its allies, mainly by miniaturizing the explosives.”

“The measures announced are based on precise threats, no doubt by this group (AQPA), one of which is more advanced in sophistication, especially in the miniaturization of explosive devices,” he added.

Had this threat already been identified?

Following the rapprochement between AQPA members and Syrian rebel groups in 2014, the TSA has already banned batteries discharged from laptops in aircraft, according to Brisard.

It was feared that “the space intended for the battery could conceal a miniature explosive of several grams,” he says.

Why the Arab countries and Turkey?

“The main threat comes from destinations listed by the US authorities,” said the expert, adding that TSA measures are generally taken up around the world.

Although some countries do not have the same detection devices as Western countries, he warns.

Why laptops and tablets?

In this type of electronic systems are “all elements of an explosive device”, “except the detonator and the explosive, which has to be added,” explains Sebastien Caron, CEO of ASCT, a training center on Issues of airport security.

How are explosives detected at checkpoints?

“When you have a doubt about an opaque area or about the type of passenger we will pass a fingerprint detector,” in the form of tissue, on the computer, says Caron.

If the computer carries explosives, traces will remain on the apparatus. The tissue will be analyzed in seven seconds and can determine if there are explosive substances, according to this specialist.

How are explosives detected in the luggage in the hold?

In some airports, like in France, the suitcases that go in the cellars of the airplanes go through a system called EDS (Explosive Detection Systems in English) that will determine if there is or are no presence of explosives from the analysis of the molecules inside the luggage.

If the machine considers that there is a threat in a suitcase, it will indicate it on the screen and a human operator will monitor the package.

“Of 100 suitcases, only 30% go through the human operator that eliminates doubts in 25 (luggage) of 30%,” according to Caron. The remaining 5% will be analyzed by a tomographer, an even more sophisticated, precise machine.


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