U.S. orders tighter airport-security measures

Federal officials intend to increase security for international flights to the U.S. starting Monday, increasing gate pat-downs and bag searches in response to the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over the Christmas holiday.

The “enhanced” security measures will be particularly acute for passengers traveling from nations deemed by the U.S. as “state sponsors of terrorism” or “other countries of interest,” the Transportation Security Administration said in its latest release.

Those other countries include some that Washington considers its allies against Islamist extremism, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, according to media reports. It also includes the four nations the U.S. has formally designated sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Altogether, there are 14 countries that the U.S. considers potentially dangerous for airlines.

“New directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law-enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners,” the TSA said in a release issued Sunday.

In an earlier release, the Department of Homeland Security said the TSA would increase pat-downs and bag searches at airport security gates, as well as require passengers to stow more personal items, turn of electronic equipment and remain seated during certain portions of flights. There have also been media reports that passengers have to return blankets and pillows before their aircraft begin to descend.

In addition, TSA checkpoints will begin using the latest screening technologies as well as “threat-based” and random screening for passengers on international flights destined for U.S. airports.

On Dec. 25, a 23-year-old Nigerian man reportedly tried to destroy a Northwest flight bound for Detroit from Amsterdam by setting off an explosive device in his pants. The device failed, resulting in a fire, and the man was quickly subdued.

Fallout from the attack has been fierce, with President Barack Obama ordering a full review of security procedures in the face of legislators’ complaints. Northwest is a unit of Delta Air Lines.

(c) 2010, MarketWatch.com Inc. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.