As President Trump’s repeated bans on travel from certain Muslim countries keep getting blocked by courts, and then watered down, and then blocked by courts again, the White House seems to have settled on a new target: Muslim laptops.
According to an executive order signed last night, travelers flying on foreign carriers from the following airports would be forbidden to bring any electronic device “larger than a smartphone” with them onboard when traveling to the U.S.:
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
Dubai International Airport, UAE
Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE
Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, Jordan
Cairo International Airport, Egypt
King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Mohammed V Airport, Casablanca, Morocco
Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait
If you’re flying from these airports on any non-American carrier, you won’t be able to bring “laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, electronic gaming units larger than a smartphone, and travel printers/scanners” onboard. (Egyptians hoping to finish off the new Zelda game on a long plane ride will be sorely disappointed.)
Sharp-eyed readers may notice that none of these countries are on the revised list of six countries included in Trump’s recently revised Muslim ban — they’re just all countries where the majority of the population identifies as Muslim. They may also notice that many of these countries are nominal allies or even staging grounds during America’s Middle Eastern military operations. The real legal eagles among you will note that nothing in this ban prevents nefarious iPad terrorists from, say, flying from Riyadh or Doha to Paris or Berlin, where they’d be allowed to carry on any device of their choosing. Notably, passengers will still be allowed to check their larger-than-a-smartphone items — arguably negating whatever small security benefit that keeping a Kindle out of the main cabin provides.
In other words, it’s unclear what this ban is really meant to accomplish, other than to inconvenience a handful of Muslim travelers, throw some particularly gristly red meat to the Trump base, and provide fodder for #resistance tweeters. The Washington Post suggests that the ban might be indirect economic protectionism meant to hurt subsidized national airline companies like Emirates (hence the exemption for American carriers); and if you’re particularly paranoid, you might wonder if forcing travelers to check electronics makes them easier for DHS agents to search at the border. With this White House, it might be all, or none, of the above.
As a former official knowledgeable of airport procedures put it simply to BuzzFeed News: “It appears to be a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts.”