Keep a tab on no-fly list, US tells airlines


Washington : With Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to bomb the Times Square, almost giving authorities the slip despite being on the no-fly list, the US government has ordered airlines to check the list within two hours of receiving information that a high-priority name has been added.

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Airlines are required to check the no-fly list for updates only every 24 hours. But a new rule announced Wednesday requires that airlines check within two hours of receiving notification that a high-priority name has been added to the list.

Security officials added Shahzad’s name to the no-fly list at 12.30 p.m. Monday, and sent airlines an electronic notification three minutes later.

But the Department of Homeland Security said Emirates Airline apparently did not check the updated list, and sold Shahzad a ticket to Pakistan by way of Dubai for cash at 7.35 p.m. Monday, seven hours after he was added to the list.

In addition, an FBI surveillance team that had found Shahzad in Connecticut lost track of him – it is not clear for how long – before he drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the Washington Post reported citing unnamed officials.

As a result, investigators did not know he was planning to fly abroad until a final passenger list was sent to officials at the federal Customs and Border Protection agency minutes before take-off.

US security officials currently rely on individual airlines to scan lists of potentially high-risk passengers and help to screen them out. In the wake of the Times Square incident, control of the screening system is gradually being shifted from the airlines to the government.

Such checks are currently being done by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for domestic flights, and the agency is scheduled to be checking all international flights by the end of the year, agency officials said.

On Sunday night, about 24 hours after the smoking Nissan Pathfinder was left on a bustling Manhattan street, investigators identified Shahzad as the buyer of the car.

However, at that point, officials cited by the Post said they were uncertain of Shahzad’s role and did not think they had enough evidence to arrest him and charge him with a crime.

They began an urgent manhunt and FBI agents located Shahzad in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and started following him.