Lack of international passenger screening ‘a gaping hole’ in global security – INTERPOL Chief
INTERPOL unveils pilot "I-Checkit" project and enlists travel industry's support
DOHA, Qatar – INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble has warned that shortcomings in international passenger screening threaten global security.
Speaking on the changing nature of security threats beyond 2020 at the Aviation Security and Border Control Summit in Doha, Mr Noble pointed to ‘a gaping hole in aviation security’ when some four out of every 10 international passengers are still not screened against INTERPOL‘s Stolen and Lost Travel (SLTD) international database, containing almost 40 million records, which produced more than 60,000 hits last year.
The INTERPOL Chief highlighted the case of Samantha Lewthwaite, the so-called ‘white widow’ of a London July 2005 suicide bomber, currently wanted internationally by Kenya for possession of explosives and at large with aliases linked to a fraudulent passport and a passport reported stolen.
Mr Noble also recalled how Ramzi Yousef, convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, and Milorad Ulemek, convicted of the 2003 assassination of Serbia’s former prime minister Zoran Djindjic, both committed their crimes after travelling internationally on stolen passports.
“We still rely on a model where governments are left alone to screen the waves of individuals crossing borders on a daily basis. A model where in far too many countries we wait for threats to reach an airport, before trying to identify them as such – when it is just tragically too late, as history has taught us,” said Secretary General Noble.
The INTERPOL Chief said that with the number of individuals flying across borders set to rise from one billion in 2010 to 1.95 billion by 2025, INTERPOL had chosen not to maintain business as usual by launching I-Checkit, a new pilot project which it believes will revolutionize international passenger screening by bringing the first line of defence beyond airports.
“We want threats to be identified by law enforcement as far away as possible from check-in desks, boarding gates or from the tarmac. And we want the private sector to be given the tools to help keep travellers safe,” said Mr Noble.
The conference heard how through verification against INTERPOL global databases, I-Checkit will enable airlines to determine if a passport has been reported lost or stolen before a ticket is even issued. No private, nominal or police information would be made available.
Under the I-Checkit initiative, the holder of a passport reported lost or stolen in INTERPOL’s global database would not be able to buy a ticket because the passport would have been identified days before as invalid, for example when trying to open a bank account, rent a car or check into a hotel.
“While passengers can't understand how a bottle of water presents a security threat, they can understand why they don't want to be sitting next to a terrorist or transnational criminal who got on the plane using an unscreened stolen passport,” said Mr Noble.
"This is why INTERPOL believes that airlines will be first in line to test new and commonsense-based ways to protect us all from the invisible, yet dangerous threats presented by persons carrying stolen passports,” concluded Secretary General Noble.
In addition to representatives from the aviation industry worldwide, senior officials at the Summit included Olivier Jankovec, Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe; David Trembaczowski-Ryder, Head of Aviation Security of ACI Europe; and Marjeta Jager, Director for Policy Coordination and Security from the European Commission.