U.S. believes terrorists testing bomb that may evade airport security

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have been perfecting and testing a bomb small enough to fit in a laptop computer that could get past airport scanners, U.S. intelligence officials told CBS News.

The concern about such an explosive hidden in a laptop or another large personal electronic device prompted the U.S. and U.K. to go forward with a ban on most electronic devices in carry-on luggage on direct flights from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

New intelligence suggests the terror groups have been testing the new bomb on airport scanners they have obtained.

The airport-scanning technology used to inspect carry-on bags in the U.S. is nearly 10 years old.

The ban was the result of a large body of intelligence accumulated over time, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports. A U.S. raid in Yemen in January that resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens provided some supporting intelligence, but that was not what triggered the ban.

In a statement to CBS News, the Department of Homeland Security said:

“As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss specific intelligence information. However, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in electronics. The U.S. government continually re-assesses existing intelligence and collects new intelligence. This allows DHS and TSA to constantly evaluate our aviation security processes and policies and make enhancements to keep passengers safe. To that end, we use a robust security system that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen.”