In response to potential terror threats, the United States announced new security measures that prevent passengers from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone onboard cabins of certain flights to the U.S. The temporary ban affects direct flights to the U.S. from eight countries: Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).
According to former CIA deputy director and CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morell, the announcement implies the U.S. has “credible intelligence of a plot to attack an airliner with the larger devices that must now be checked.”
But with 10 airports and nine airlines in the countries being told they have 96 hours (until Saturday) to comply, Morell said on “CBS This Morning” that it doesn’t sound like an “imminent threat.”
“It sounds more like a general plot that we’ve learned about. A plan to do something significant, but not specific,” Morell said.
A U.S. official said the ban tracks back to the laptop bombing of an airliner out of Mogadishu, Somalia last year, which blew a hole in a jet and killed one passenger, believed to be a suicide bomber. Had the bomb gone off at high altitude, it would have been disastrous. Since then there has been an accumulation of intelligence that convinced analysts that al-Qaeda has developed the capability to hide explosives within batteries of the size used in laptops and tablets, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.
“So, the fact that it’s focused on putting explosives into electronic devices and focused on airlines suggests al-Qaeda. But when you actually look at the countries, it looks more like ISIS, particularly when you put Turkey in there,” Morell said. “So, at this point, I don’t think we know which group is behind this. It could be either one.”
Al Qaeda and its affiliate, al-Nusra Front, is a growing problem, Morell said.
“As we have been focused on ISIS for of the last five years, al Qaeda has rebounded,” he said. “It’s rebounded in Yemen. It is rebounding in Afghanistan. And it is actually a growing problem in Syria on the al-Nusra group.”
The U.K. has also issued a similar electronics ban for direct flights arriving there from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey — a slightly different list of countries than those named by the U.S.