TSA: tighter screening for flyers coming into USA from 14 countries

The TSA issued a security directive today which states that starting tomorrow, anyone flying into the US "traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening," thought "enhanced screening" is not defined. The NYT reports the 14 countries are: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen.


  1. I can only presume that this means any trip I may take that flies over the US on my way from Western Canada to Cuba will mean some kind of wierdness. I don’t mind the request, the US has every right to protect itself.
    However, I wonder if Cuba was included on this list for purely political reasons, and that this is an underhanded way to grind the Cuban government by prohibiting tourists from being able to get to the island, all under the auspices of safety.

  2. Here’s the Council on Foreign Relations article on Cuba’s listing as a state sponsor of terrorism. Basically, it looks like it’s on there for legacy reasons; while Cuba has some ties to ETA and FARC, they don’t seem to be terribly active in providing military support any more.

    That said, overflight doesn’t seem likely to cause scrutiny, the issue would be if your plane stopped in Cuba on the way; since there are no direct flights from Cuba to the US at present, this doesn’t seem like a terribly big inconvenience.

  3. What about France and the Netherlands? Where the terrorist got on is more important than if the state sponsors terrorism.

    1. @Dainel
      If they got on in France or the Netherlands, there is a good chance they were processed by TSA or Homeland Security employees. Depending on the country, the TSA employees may have even been American citizens. I know if I get on a US-bound plane at Toronto airport, I have to go through American Homeland Security checks. So that’s where you need to point your finger.

  4. I’d say this never-ending hate-on for Cuba is getting silly, except it got silly 20 years ago. Now it’s just kind of sad. It’s like an adult who is still raging about some half-remembered slight in high school. The rest of the world rolls its eyes whenever the US bares its teeth at Cuba.

    At this point, it’s just spite-driven. Kind of like how I’m suddenly tempted to spitefully prepare myself a nice drink using this excellent Cuban rum that I purchased completely legally from my local liquor store, because there’s no reason why I shouldn’t.

  5. Wait… Iraq still has state sanctioned terrorism? I thought everything was cool and the world was a safer place since W. overthrew and killed Sadam…

    1. well, since Saddam didn’t have much to do with terrorism in the first place, it could be said that nothing has changed…

  6. Leaving aside the debate about whether new security measures are even needed (given that there has not been a single successful terrorist attack involving a commercial air flight since 9/11), it seems like this additional screening would be trivial to bypass. A would-be terrorist from (for example) Afghanistan who wants to avoid the “enhanced screening” when traveling to the US can simply purchase two tickets, one from Afghanistan to, say, France (or any other country not on the list), and a second ticket from France to the US.

    1. “Leaving aside the debate about whether new security measures are even needed (given that there has not been a single successful terrorist attack involving a commercial air flight since 9/11)”

      So then you’d only react to successful attacks and ignore the failed attempts?

  7. Clearly, the goal of these new rules is “do something and CYA.”

    Any motivated bomber can still easily bring explosives on board (e.g. in a body cavity). Today, there are no feasible security measures that will prevent a motivated airliner bomber.

    And in the unlikely event we make it impractical for a motivated terrorist to bomb an airplane, there are still literally thousands of “soft targets” in the USA that can be bombed far more easily (and with far more effect, due to novelty) than an airplane.

    The one thing that gives me hope is that more Americans are starting to chafe and complain about the TSA’s security theater. They’re still a minority voice, but at least they’re now being mentioned in mainstream reporting.

  8. North Korea? Or did their recent gesture of détente (after a year of nuclear buildup grant them immunity?

    1. Ok, but that is a North Korean policy. If they decided to have a commercial flight tomorrow, I damn well hope they’d be on the list…. that said…. good point.

    1. There are (government-owned) airports in North Korea with commercial flights to at least South Korea, Thailand, China, Russia and Taiwan.

  9. For those people wondering why Cuba was included on the list, remember that the US is holding many dangerous terrorists in Guantanamo Bay and if they escape they might try to hop a flight for America.

    1. @anonymous: Escape from Guantanamo Bay? And then subsequently try to hop a flight to the US?

      You’re more likely to have a piano fall on your head!

      As I said, the whole Cuba thing is just silly. Thanks for demonstrating my point!

    2. I doubt an escaped detainee would get very far. They would stand out like a sore thumb.

      Cuban people detest terrorism. Many have told me they cried on 9/11 along with the rest of us.

  10. I am the worst at spelling, and am the biggest hipocryte for this, but shouldn’t

    “…interest will be required to go through enhanced screening,” thought “enhanced screening” is not defined.”


    “…interest will be required to go through enhanced screening,” though “enhanced screening” is not defined.” ???
    I don’t get the word thought and shouldn’t that be though? As in though the idiots at the TSA didn’t explain what the hell they are talking about?

    1. The plane Orlando Bosch bombed was a Cubana airlines jet going from Venezuela to Havana. He is an anti-Cuban terrorist. His fellow terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, none of his cohorts was given safe haven in the US by GWB. I guess some terrorists are worse, or more useful, than others.

  11. Isn’t the US the state sponsor of terrorism against Cuba? I mean, what else do you call the bay of pigs invasion and all those CIA plots to kill Castro?

  12. Maybe the TSA is worried about Cuban terrorists like Orlando Bosch, who took down a civilian airplane in 1976, killing 73 people.

    The article you linked to implies he killed Kennedy as well, so take it with a grain of salt.

  13. Lets see…Algeria, Yemen, Somalia. Yup, those are reasonable choices, no politics here. Wait a minute, Cuba??? YES! Politics as usual! Good job you hacks.

  14. As others have noted, this list is insane. Cuba and North Korea are absurdly improbable places for plane bombers to come from. Iran too, come to think of it. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which are the most likely places for plane bombers to hail from, are not on the list. Also, height of absurdity, wasn’t Venezuela on the last (pre-Christmas) list that got leaked?

    My wife and I regularly fly from Algeria, where she’s from, and where we are right now; as you can imagine, we’re really looking forward to the flight home now. Algerian jihadis have so far never expressed any interest in the US, which makes the country’s inclusion on the list almost as absurd as Cuba. I wonder if getting included on the list will make them take notice now…

  15. As I recall the last few terrorists to successfully take down American passenger jets took off from Boston, Newark and Washington D.C.

  16. Not intending to defend th inclusion of Cuba on the list, but this has nothing to do with overflights or where the flight originated. The screenings are for PEOPLE who are traveling from those locations, not planes. Remember, the most recent attempted terrorist was flying from Amsterdam to Detroit, but his trip originated in Nigeria.

    While it is not possible to take a direct flight from the US to Cuba, it is absolutely possible to travel to and from Cuba indirectly, so its inclusion certainly makes sense (again, ignoring for the moment whether Cuba should be included on the list, and only dealing with it from the practical standpoint).

  17. Security Theatre adds a new song and dance routine!

    As I recall, the 9/11 bombers got everything they needed to perpetrate the worst act of domestic terror in US history right here in the good ol’ US of A.

    And while we’re at it, though it may not have involved aeroplanes or even dirigibles, the fist World Trade Center bombing (hey, kids, remember that?) was made of local ingredients.

    Cuba is on the list because the anti-Castro lobby in Florida and other places is still quite strong fifty years after the fact. They vote, they have money, and they won’t budge until Fidel is in the ground and they have control over the Havana casinos again.

  18. I am breaking the rules and posting without reading the previous posts, but it’s a busy day and I still want to get my 2 cents in… my Canadian friend has just shared with me that she has been told that she cannot bring a carry-on bag into the U.S. when she flies in in three weeks. I feel safer already.

  19. The Times says that “Citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, who are flying to the United States will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports worldwide that was imposed after the Christmas Day bombing plot. ” CNN report the screening is for those traveling from or through those countries. I wonder which is correct. Citizens makes more sense, and answers the criticisms in many of the comments.

  20. Keep it up Ameica. Give people even less incentive to care about dealing with you. Keep you antiquated ways of thinking, your ‘gut’ instincts and your hubris. It’s about all you’ve got left.

  21. So, what’s going to happen to the “senior government official, not authorized to speak on the record” and the “senior State Department official who could not speak on the record due to the sensitive nature of the material” for leaking information to the press? There is obviously something wrong when we can not even trust those who have taken an oath to not disclose sensitive information.

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