Homeland Security

Intel on 'imminent threat' drove airline electronics ban, top lawmaker says

Strong intelligence pointing to an "imminent threat" drove the decision in March to ban large electronics in carry-on baggage on flights into the U.S., according to a senior House Republican.

"Specific and credible intelligence that there was an imminent threat to our aviation sector" was behind the decision, House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, told Fox News. "I think the administration took very responsible actions to safeguard the safety of Americans here in the homeland."

The ban on electronics larger than iPhones applied to 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

During congressional testimony on April 5, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly did not rule out expanding the restrictions. "It's real. I think it's getting realer, so to speak," Kelly told a Senate committee, referring to the intelligence and threat. "We may take measures in the not-too-distant future to expand the number of airports."

It is widely reported that terrorist groups seek  to plant explosives in lap top computers, or similar devices.

According to congressional investigators, the data shows that six years after SEAL Team 6 killed Usama bin Laden in Pakistan, the threat remains high, with terrorist-inspired or directed attacks focused on civilians.

McCaul's committee reported there have been 198 ISIS-linked plots against the West, including 21 this year alone. And the terror group has taken suicide attacks into the mainstream with 63 plots against the West since 2013 -- with 42 in 2016 and 2017.

The data further shows the growing use of vehicles as weapons. An ISIS-inspired attack in Stockholm, Sweden, last month marked Europe's fourth attack in 12 months where the group used a truck or car against civilian targets to inflict mass casualties.  In that attack, five were killed and even more injured when a beer truck was hijacked and rammed into a central downtown shopping mall.

"I think most importantly, that the war on terror did not end with the death of Usama bin Laden," McCaul said. "In fact, there have been more terror plots against the West since his killing than at any time since 9/11."

Counterterrorism analysts also report French and British authorities see a big jump in women getting involved with terrorism, moving beyond support roles to carrying out operations. On Monday, British police arrested three teenage girls, alleged members of a cell. The fourth member was shot dead.

Fox News asked a Homeland Security spokesperson for comment, or to provide additional context, and there was no immediate response. 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Pamela K. Browne is Senior Executive Producer at the FOX News Channel (FNC) and is Director of Long-Form Series and Specials. Her journalism has been recognized with several awards. Browne first joined FOX in 1997 to launch the news magazine “Fox Files” and later, “War Stories.”

Cyd Upson is a Senior Producer at Fox News in the Investigative Unit and of the acclaimed military history series “War Stories.”