US to check flight data for suspicious passengers


Washington : US authorities will ask airlines to provide passenger lists of international flights to and from the country 30 minutes before takeoff so they can be checked for terrorism suspects, government officials said.

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Under current US rules, passenger data is provided to US border authorities after the flight has left the ground.

“That is too late,” US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters Thursday. “We need to do everything in our power to identify potential threats before that airplane takes off.”

The measure should avoid situations where the US turns back flights from abroad because of suspicious passengers.

Each passenger’s passport data will be checked against a computerized federal “watch list” for possible terrorist suspects. The rule is expected to take effect in about six months.

The collected data will be stored, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, though he did not say how long.

“We retain all the data that we collect from people when they enter the United States. We collect their passport information,” he told reporters.

Under a second proposal, the Homeland Security Department would require airlines to provide passenger information for US domestic flights up to three days in advance.

If a passenger shows up on the watch list, authorities would have more time to conduct further investigation and possibly bar a person from getting on a plane, Chertoff said.

Both measures fulfil proposals by a US commission that recommended security improvements after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.