ALGIERS – Extra airline security checks introduced after the failed Christmas Day bomb plot are still evolving, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday after some states alleged the screening singled them out unfairly.
U.S. President Barack Obama ordered extra pre-flight screening for air travelers flying to the United States from 14 countries. One of those states, close Washington ally Algeria, has called its inclusion discriminatory.
“We are looking at alternatives to address the risks that we see out there,” U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Janet Sanderson told a news conference after talks with Algerian officials. “This is an evolutionary process.”
Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the failed December 25 bombing of a U.S.-bound plane.
Algeria, a mainly Muslim energy exporter, is fighting an al Qaeda-linked insurgency. The violence has subsided significantly in the past few years and security measures, particularly at the country’s airports, are stringent.
The United States and Algeria have cooperated closely in the fight against al Qaeda.
The 14 countries on Washington’s list are Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Nigeria and Cuba have also complained about their inclusion on the list.
Sanderson said she assured Algerian officials that the extra security measures were not aimed at any one country, and that the United States was committed to cooperating with Algeria on countering militant violence.
Answering questions about the new airline security measures, she said: “These efforts that we are making together are always changing in order to meet a changing threat.”
“I do not think we should look on this as a static formula. It is a continuing endeavor, it is a continuing effort that all of us who are trying to combat terrorism must take on.”
She said that the U.S. assessment of the threat of militant violence in Algeria is always under review. “But given the time-frame, Christmas Day, that this happened, the president of the United States took steps and that is what happened.”
Washington has agreed with Algiers to send home some of the Algerian detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. In the latest handover, two detainees were transferred to Algerian control last week.