Homeland Security

Airlines told to 'be prepared' for expanded electronics ban

U.S. officials have told airlines to "be prepared" for an expanded ban on carry-on electronic devices allowed on airplanes. 

Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan confirmed to reporters Tuesday that the administration is considering expanding the ban on laptops, which currently applies to U.S.-bound flights from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

An expanded ban on devices larger than cellphones could potentially include "more than a couple" other regions, including flights from Western Europe.

Lapan reminded reporters that DHS Secretary John Kelly has alluded to the ban "likely" being expanded. DHS officials, however, are still deciding where and how the new restrictions will be implemented.

The chief concern is passengers bringing laptops into the cabin -- something high on the law enforcement radar screen, ever since an attack on a Somali airliner where an explosive device built into a laptop detonated in flight and injured two people.

In March, officials implemented the initial ban of certain electronic devices on flights to the U.S. from 13 international airports due to reports of increased terror threats that suggested Al Qaeda and other groups were still looking to smuggle explosive materials onboard planes. The ban also renewed post-9/11 regulations on liquids on planes.

In a statement sent to Fox News on Monday, the Transportation Security Administration said the agency had not made a decision on the matter.

“However, we are continuously assessing security directives based on intelligence and will make changes when necessary to keep travelers safe,” the statement said.

When DHS implemented the initial ban, it said that there was “reason to be concerned” about attempts by terrorist groups to “circumvent aviation security,” and said that terrorist groups continue to “target aviation interests.”

“Implementing additional security measures enhances our ability to mitigate further attempts against the overseas aviation industry,” DHS said on its website.

The initial ban focused on airports based on the “current threat picture.” According to DHS, the affected airports were: Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport, Saudi Arabia’s Kin Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport, Kuwait International Airport, Morocco’s Mohammad V Airport, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Last week, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told Fox News that recent changes to aviation security were based on “specific and credible intelligence.”

“The war on terror did not end with the death of Usama bin Laden, in fact, there have been more terror plots against the West since his killing than any time since 9/11,” McCaul told Fox News. “There was an imminent threat to our aviation sector and I think the administration took very responsible actions to safeguard the safety of Americans here in the homeland.”

The House Homeland Security Committee released its monthly Terror Snapshot report on Monday, which showed 199 ISIS-linked plots against the West since 2013, with 21 of those plots occurring between this January and May.

Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.