4 questions we have about Trump’s latest ban
Earlier today, the US banned all passengers on flights from the UAE to the US from carrying major electronic devices in the cabin. This means that if you are flying from Dubai or Abu Dhabi to the USA, you can no longer take your iPad, laptop or any electronic games in the cabin and have to pack them in your checked-in luggage instead.
Officials at the US department of homeland security (DHS) have claimed that the ban will help prevent terrorist attacks on commercial airlines. However, there are still key questions about the timing and the targets of this latest policy.
1. How dangerous are laptops and tablets?
If there are concerns about laptops onboard being used as explosives, wouldn’t the risks still exist if they are checked in? And, don’t most smartphones nowadays have the same capabilities as larger devices?
It’s not just baffling us, Nicholas Weaver, researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley seems just as confused. “It’s weird, because it doesn’t match a conventional threat model,” he told The Guardian. “If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold. If you’re worried about hacking, a cell phone is a computer.”
2. What about lithium batteries?
Lithium batteries are highly flammable and surely storing a fire hazard in a place that no one can easily get to would be a health and safety concern.
3. Why these particular airlines?
University of California, Berkeley law school professor Paul Schwartz was quick to point out that pin pointing a select number of airlines wouldn’t make sense from a strategic perspective. “There is certainly nothing technological that would limit this newfound threat to a handful of Middle Eastern airlines.”
He adds: “One potential problem with this approach where you single out countries is that you ignore the extent to which the terrorist threat is kind of state-less. The terrorists have cells throughout the entire world.”
4. Is this really about terrorism?
US airlines have been lobbying the Trump administration to intervene in the Persian Gulf, where they have contended for years that the investments in three rapidly expanding airlines in the area – Etihad Airways, Qatar, and Emirates – constitute unfair government subsidies with which Delta, American and United cannot compete.
Many officials also believe that this is just another way to dissuade passengers travelling from Gulf to the USA. A former administration official familiar with aviation security procedures even told BuzzFeed News that “it appears to be a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts”.