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Security advisory focuses on electronic devices

Items modified to carry weapons found in al Qaeda hideouts

Homeland Security officials say the directive will tell screeners to pay attention to electronic devices.
Homeland Security officials say the directive will tell screeners to pay attention to electronic devices.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory Tuesday directing federal airport screeners and local authorities to pay particular attention to small electronic devices such as remote key locks, camera flash attachments, cell phones and radios.

Officials said recent raids of al Qaeda safe houses overseas turned up evidence that the group was trying to modify electronic devices to carry small weapons or explosives -- for instance, a camera flash device was being modified to convert to a stun gun, the officials said.

The discoveries in those hideouts led to the decision last week to warn the aviation sector of possible hijackings.

A Homeland official said the new advisory is a clarification of that information and was not based on more recent intelligence.

One airport official, who did not want to be identified, said the new advisory could lead to further delays at security checkpoints in what is already the busiest time of year for the airline industry.

The official pointed out that X-ray machines used at passenger-screening checkpoints cannot identify explosives, and screeners might be forced to swab electronics for explosive residue or put suspicious items through the more sophisticated CTX machines used to screen checked baggage.

A security directive issued last week ordered closer scrutiny of small electronics, such as cameras, as well as shoes and clothing. That directive was aimed primarily at those screening travelers transiting through the United States without visas, but also applied to domestic travelers who set off metal detectors or who were selected for random screening.

The administration has since suspended the two programs that allow some foreigners to travel through the United States without visas.

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