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DHS Chief: U.S. Tested Prototype Terrorist Bombs Before Implementing New Aviation Security Rules

by Ken Dilanian and Pete Williams /
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly during a news conference at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington.Susan Walsh / AP

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ASPEN, Colo. — The U.S. government tested two prototype bombs, based on new terrorist technology, to determine that they could take down a passenger jet before implementing new cabin rules on electronic devices, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told NBC News’ Pete Williams Wednesday night

“We tested it on a real airplane on the ground, pressurized, and to say the least, it destroyed the airplane,” Kelly said during the opening session of the Aspen Security Forum.

Kelly said the bombs could be hidden in laptops and other small electronic devices. Having those same bombs in the cargo hold was deemed not to be as risky, he said, because it is unlikely they could be remotely detonated.

Kelly said the newly announced policy requiring airports to adopt tougher security rules to avoid a ban on electronic devices in the cabin was not a compromise between security and convenience.

“No compromise at all,” he said.

Kelly said he was briefed on what he called a very sophisticated new aviation threat when he took office in January.

“They’d like to knock down a U.S. airplane in flight on the way to the United States,” he said.

The U.S. and British ban on electronic devices in the cabins of inbound flights from certain countries stemmed from a new intelligence analysis suggesting that terrorists could put bombs in laptops in a way that would allow the devices to briefly power on, fooling security screeners, NBC News previously reported.

Information about the threat also came from a British penetration of the ISIS terror group in Syria, U.S. officials have said.

Terror groups also have gotten their hands on airport security screening devices in order to probe their weaknesses, officials added.

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