WASHINGTON – The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday reported out a resolution emphasizing the importance of sharing airline passengers’ names to prevent terrorists from boarding airplanes bound for the U.S.
The resolution, introduced by Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., comes as the European Union seeks changes to an agreement with the United States on Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, which was supposed to be in effect until 2014. This agreement allows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to begin pre-screening international flights against terrorism databases 72 hours before the flights are scheduled to depart.
Data collected from the airlines’ PNR systems have also contributed to terrorism investigations and to the arrests of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and David Headley, who helped mastermind the 2009 Mumbai attacks.
“We know from hard experience that terrorists are still trying to use airplanes as weapons to strike out at the American people, and thus, we should be doing everything we can to keep terrorists off airplanes in the first place,” Lieberman said. “Accessing PNR data enables us to deny terrorists the ability to wage war on innocent air travelers, and I urge the federal government to accept no changes to our current agreement with the European Union if those changes impede on our ability to protect our citizens.”
Collins said: "Passenger Name Record data is an important tool in the fight against terrorism as it assists security personnel in identifying possible threats, before they arrive in our country. This sharing of passenger information from inbound international flights is a crucial component of our layered approach to homeland security.
“This resolution recognizes the key role that PNR data have played in disrupting terrorist travel and in terrorism investigations, including their use to identify and arrest Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and David Headley, coconspirator of the 2008 Mumbai Terrorist attack. I urge the Department of Homeland Security and the European Union to continue to use the PNR data agreement in place, as previously negotiated and in effect until July 2014, to identify and thwart those seeking to do our country harm.”
The measure passed unanimously by voice vote and now heads for the Senate floor.