The head of the Department of Homeland Security said today the department is "continually evaluating" whether additional travel restrictions are necessary in the wake of reports a terrorist could attempt to strike a Russia-bound airplane during the Olympic Games using explosive ingredients hidden in toothpaste tubes.
"DHS monitors world events in real time and takes action, when necessary, to confront and respond to threats," DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said at an event in Washington, D.C. "In support of Russian authorities, we are keeping a close eye on the Sochi Olympics. Within the last 48 hours, we have, out of an abundance of caution, issued advisories to air carriers and others based on what we've learned, adjusted TSA security measures, and are continually evaluating whether more is necessary."
Johnson made the remarks as the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off more than 5,500 miles away in Sochi, Russia. Around the same time, the region got a brief air scare when a man reportedly attempted to hijack a plane and take it to Sochi.
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Wednesday U.S. authorities warned some U.S.- and foreign-based airlines that intelligence suggested terrorists may try to smuggle ingredients for explosives aboard a plane in toothpaste tubes, as first reported by ABC News.
The next day, the TSA said they would not allow travelers heading to Russia to carry on any liquids or gels of any size, a departure from rules for other travelers, which states such liquids and gels can be carried on in small amounts as long as they're house in clear containers. Russia had already banned all liquids or gels from passengers' carry-ons in their airports in January.
American officials have been tight-lipped about the origin of the intelligence that prompted the new restriction, but Rep. Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC News Wednesday that the threat was "specific," "credible" and should be taken seriously. Several U.S. counter-terrorism officials who spoke to ABC News also stressed the complexity of intelligence gathering and said information on any specific threat -- no matter how likely to come to pass -- would be passed along to the effected parties.
Security in Sochi has been high for months due to the threat posed to the Games by Islamic militants in the region.
Sochi lies on the Black Sea, just 300 miles away from the heartland of an Islamic militancy in the North Caucasus. Doku Umarov, the leader of the insurgents known to some as Russia's Osama bin Laden, told his followers last summer they should do what they can to disrupt the Games, which he called a "satanic dance" on the bones of their ancestors.
In the past three months, Russia has suffered three suicide bombings in southern cities attributed to the militants. In January the U.S. State Department urged its citizens traveling to Sochi to be "vigilant and exercise good judgment" during the Games because of the terror threat.
On the other side of the globe in America, Johnson said that though DHS is keeping an eye out for any further need to boost security measures, he's hoping things stay quiet.
"In the homeland security world, no news is good news, and no news is often the result of the hard work, vigilance, and dedication of people within our government who prevent bad things you never hear about," he said.