WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Ranking Member Senator Joe Lieberman are calling on DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to promptly establish a system to prescreen international passengers before they board flights. Recently diverted flights to Bangor International Airport illustrate the need for “No Fly” passenger lists to be reviewed prior to passengers ever boarding flights.
In a letter to Secretary Chertoff, the Senators pointed out that the current system is not working because, on two recent occasions, passengers whose names matched those on the “No Fly” list were not identified until their flights had taken off and were enroute to the U.S.
The Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform legislation, which was signed into law last December, directed the Department of Homeland Security to have established a passenger prescreening system by February 2005.
The text of the Senators’ letter to Secretary Chertoff is as follows:
May 24, 2005
The Honorable Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Chertoff:
We are writing to urge that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) promptly implement the provisions of Section 4012(a)(2) of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) which required that DHS establish a system for prescreening international passenger prior to departure. Under the law, the Department was required to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by February 15, 2005 to ensure that passenger information is compared against the consolidated and integrated terrorist watchlist in advance of boarding, prohibiting passengers who match information in the terrorist watchlist from boarding the flight.
In recent weeks, two international flights have been diverted to Bangor, Maine, as a result of passenger information matching an individual record on the No Fly List. We are sure you would agree that these incidents demonstrate the current passenger prescreening system is not working. Not only does it create a serious security vulnerability, but it imposes tremendous costs on air carriers, taxes government resources, inconveniences hundreds of passengers, and has a ripple effect on the travel and tourism industry.
We are certain that the decision to divert an aircraft is not made lightly and is a result of limited options once a hit has been identified on a flight already en route to the U.S. That, in fact, is the problem. The potential terrorist is already on board an aircraft headed to the U.S.
We urge the Department to move expeditiously to comply with the provisions of the IRTPA and issue the required notice of proposed rulemaking. We further request you provide us with a timetable for doing so.
Susan M. Collins Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman Ranking Member