A British police officer stands guard at Terminal 1 of London's Heathrow Airport on Monday. A spokesman for Britain's Department of Transportation said he was still trying to decipher the practical implications of the U.S. screening rules.
A British police officer stands guard at Terminal 1 of London's Heathrow Airport on Monday. A spokesman for Britain's Department of Transportation said he was still trying to decipher the practical implications of the U.S. screening rules. AP
Air travelers bound for the U.S. faced increased security screening at international airports under new regulations that went into effect Monday morning, as Obama administration officials headed to Europe for meetings on global security.
According to a Transportation Security Administration directive released Sunday, all passengers traveling from nations that are state supporters of terrorism or other "countries of interest" are required to go through enhanced screening.
Passengers flying into the U.S. from countries without terrorist links were subject to increased random screening, the TSA said.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that she was dispatching two top officials Monday to carry on meetings with European authorities on the results of a security review by the Obama administration.
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Assistant Secretary David Heyman are due to report back to on ways to bolster anti-terrorist security.
U.S. officials scurried to get the new regulations into effect after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man, was arrested for allegedly trying to set off an explosive device on board a U.S. flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.
Abdulmutallab was subdued by other passengers on the Northwest Airlines flight as he allegedly tried to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear. Investigators have said Abdulmutallab was trained by al-Qaida in Yemen.
The new procedures include full-body pat-downs, physical inspections of property and body scans for all passengers coming from or flying through countries linked to terrorist activity.
In addition, the TSA beefed up the presence of law enforcement officers at airports, as well as air marshals and canine explosive detection teams.
"Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, 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," stated a TSA directive issued Sunday.
The TSA didn't name the countries of interest, but officials said the directive included nations on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are listed on the State Department's Web site as having that designation.
Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen are among the "countries of interest" that will be affected.
The new TSA rules include long-term, "sustainable" security measures that were developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and domestic and international partners, TSA officials said Sunday.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the political instability in Yemen poses "a threat to regional stability and even global stability. She said the U.S. was "working with Qatar and others to think of the best way forward to try to deal with the security concerns, and certainly we know that this is a difficult set of challenges but they have to be addressed."
Across the globe, other countries reacted to the new mandates.
British Prime minister Gordon Brown said body scanners will be in use at London's Heathrow Airport as soon as possible.
Australia's transport ministry said all passengers flying to the U.S. will be patted down and have their cabin baggage searched.
Swiss authorities said more rigorous checks in place at airports in Geneva and Zurich by Tuesday. In South Korea, officials at the main airport in Seoul perused lists of suspicious passengers based on nationality, travel patterns and ticket purchases.
Meanwhile, Newark International Airport in New Jersey resumed normal operations Monday after a security scare grounded flights for six hours on Sunday night.
TSA spokesman Ann Davis said someone picking up a passenger reported seeing a man enter the wrong way through a security checkpoint.
TSA employees who reviewed surveillance video determined that the unknown man was in the airport for about 20 minutes, said Davis. The video confirmed that the man had entered one of the airport terminals through an exit, causing officials to make all passengers leave the terminal to be re-screened.
Passenger Aaron Nance was already on board a plane to Pittsburgh when authorities told passengers they would have to be re-screened. "They said we had to sit tight for a while they were looking for someone in Terminal C," Nance said. "We sat there for about an hour, then somebody came on again and said everybody had to exit out the plane and go back through the screening process."
Davis said nothing suspicious was found, but authorities had to take precautions.
President Obama, who returned Monday from a Christmas holiday in Hawaii, is scheduled to meet with leaders of the intelligence agencies Tuesday at the White House.
He has said different agencies had bits and pieces of information that could have and should have kept Abdulmutallab off the plane.
A senior administration official said such lapses won't be tolerated.
Contributing: NPR wire services.