Airline passengers with remote-control toys in their carry-on bags will face additional screening, according to a new Homeland Security rule announced yesterday.
Transportation Security Administration officials are urging passengers to pack such toys in checked baggage. Children will not be exempt from getting patted down when going through security checkpoints.
“While not associated with a specific threat at this time, TSA is aware that remote-control toys can be used to initiate devices used in terrorist attacks,” TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said.
The new procedure is based on intelligence reports, but the TSA did not offer specifics.
“Transportation security officers have trained on this possibility and travelers may encounter additional screening when bringing remote control devices in carry-on luggage,” Mr. Hawley said.
TSA screeners began training last week to inspect the toys, just as federal prosecutors said two Muslim college students arrested in South Carolina this summer were carrying a laptop computer with a video created by one of them on how to turn a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator.
Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed were stopped for speeding in Berkeley County, S.C. near a Naval Weapons Station on Aug. 4. Officers found four PVC pipes containing potassium nitrate explosive mixture, 20 feet of safety-fuse cord, several gallons of gasoline and a box of .22-caliber bullets.
Police also found a “12-minute video in Arabic language of a male individual with an Egyptian accent who was wearing a white shirt and khaki pants with rubber gloves on his hands,” says an affidavit filed Sept. 25 by FBI Agent Daniel McTavish in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina.
“In the recording, he shows how a remote-control toy vehicle is constructed and operated, and gives instructions as to the range and distance the remote will operate and the radio frequency on which the vehicle operates. The narrator explains how to convert the vehicle into a detonator. A detonator is a component in a bomb. The demonstrator also mentions ‘then the toy which I used in the same circuit was the electric boat.’ ”
Mr. Mohamed told police he made the video “to assist those persons in Arabic countries to defend themselves against the infidels invading their countries,” the affidavit said.
“He considered American troops and those forces fighting with the American military to be invaders of Arab countries. He added that the technology which he demonstrated in the tape was to be used against those who fought for the United States,” the affidavit said.
The two University of South Florida engineering students were indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 29 for transporting explosive materials, and Mr. Mohamed is being criminally held on charges for creating the video.