WASHINGTON – The Homeland Security Department announced Friday a series of new security efforts aimed at international airports in the wake of the crash of a Russian jetliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the latest security protocols will focus on commercial flights bound for the United States from certain overseas airports in the region. He did not say which airports will be affected.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new protocols apply to fewer than 10 overseas airports in “the region in which the Sinai Peninsula is located.” He said the affected airports already have co-operative relationships with the United States.
The new security procedures will include expanded security screening of items put on commercial jets, airport assessments and offers of security assistance for certain airports.
Russian carrier Metrojet’s Airbus A321-200 crashed shortly after takeoff from the Sharm el-Sheikh airport in Egypt on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. There are no direct flights from that airport to the United States.
Though the investigation is ongoing, President Barack Obama has said the U.S. is taking “very seriously” the possibility that a bomb caused the crash.
“These measures are not being taken in response to a specific threat to the homeland but it is the prudent exercise of an abundance of caution given the information that U.S. officials have learned about this airline disaster in the Sinai Peninsula,” Earnest said Friday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he has grounded all British flights to and from the Sinai Peninsula because of “intelligence and information” that points to a bomb as the probable cause of the crash.
On Friday, Russia announced that it will suspend all flights to Egypt until security is improved at its airports.
Michael Balboni, a security expert and former deputy secretary for public safety for New York state, said there are significant differences in the scrutiny of airport workers at overseas airports than in the United States. And in the wake of the downing of the Russian flight, those gaps are likely to gain renewed attention.
“Everything needs a refresh,” Balboni said. “Security is never a destination, it’s a journey. You have to change it up, you have to refresh it.”
Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap