U.S.-bound private planes face more screening

/ Source: NBC News and news services

The Department of Homeland Security will soon impose new requirements on private planes coming from all over the world into the U.S., intended to prevent terrorists from renting jets to smuggle in a nuclear weapon.

By mid-year, the government will require that all private jet flights be reported in advance, with names of crew members and passengers. Homeland Security hopes to have new rules in place by year's end requiring that all flights be screened for nuclear material.

The screening would take place outside the continental United States. Planes from Europe, for example, could land at an interim airport overseas for screening. And to make it less burdensome, the flights would also be cleared for customs and immigration so they could land at any airport in the nation.

Flights from Asia could be screened in Alaska, though the details of the screening points have not yet been worked out.

Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff said the federal government has made big improvements in screening cargo that's shipped into the U.S. "We've asked ourselves, how else might a terrorist try to sneak in a bomb? And one answer is, by renting a plane."

Chertoff said about 400 private jets fly from overseas to the U.S. every day.

The U.S. also is working with Canada to put similar rules into place for flights arriving there.

Chertoff said his department may also work with Latin American countries so that a nuclear bomb could not be flown into those countries on private planes.

"We want to first address that threat which would come in through the shortest and most direct route," he said. "And once we've got that dealt with, we'll need to think about more indirect routes."