The United States is banning all electronics larger than a smartphone on incoming flights from certain airports in eight Middle Eastern countries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in a press release sent to media outlets earlier today. The restrictions will start being enforced later this week, the agency said, adding that there will be no exceptions to the rule and passengers from affected countries won't be able to bring any device larger than a handset on flights. Larger consumer electronics that passengers want to bring into the United States will still be able to fly with them, but only as checked baggage, the DHS said. The list of affected countries includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Egypt, and Turkey.
The DHS didn't go into a lot of details to explain the ban, and neither did the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). While it's possible that the ban is an active measure to prevent some ongoing terrorist plot, it's more likely that the decision was made as an extension of the current U.S. administration's immigration policy that already resulted in two controversial travel bans that have been suspended by several courts and were met with fierce opposition from various tech giants and advocacy groups in the country, as well as most members of the U.S. Democratic Party. The new order will come into effect following an official security directive from the TSA, the announcement revealed. Affected airlines will be given four days to start implementing the rule or face sanctions in the form of revoked clearances from the TSA.
Opponents of the new ban are claiming that its sole intent is to make traveling from the affected Middle Eastern countries more inconvenient and discourage people from doing so. The DHS defended the ban by stating it only affects certain airports in the aforementioned countries and wasn't designed to target specific nations. However, the U.S. officials are yet to explain the exact rationale behind the ban, i.e. why have they decided to target specific airports. An update on the situation will likely follow later this week. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. tech giants will protest this decision seeing how some of them seemingly stopped challenging President Trump's controversial immigration policies earlier this month.