Homeland Security Official Urges Europe to Use, Share Passenger Flight Reservation Data for Aviation Security
(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman on Thursday called for a significant push from European partners to implement more stringent information gathering tools relating to aviation security. Heyman said that information received from passenger flight reservation data had greatly assisted in U.S. counterterrorism operations, especially in helping identify the alleged co-conspirators of attempted New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi.
Heyman said that the U.S. would be engaging in negotiations with the EU Commission shortly on continued sharing of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, which is obtained when flights are reserved and booked. The U.S. currently has arrangements to have European countries gather this information for flights inbound to the United States until 2014 but due to privacy concerns the current information sharing agreement is going to be getting a fresh review from the European Parliament.
Appearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Thursday along with representatives from TSA, Heyman said, “The PNR record is extremely important, it has helped us on a number of occasions...to identify and...to do analysis...to find co-travelers for example who may be of concern, we did that in the case of Zazi, to identify individuals who may be trying to flee the country as was the case with Shahzad.”
According to U.S. officials, PNR data was also used to find David Headley, who has pleaded guilty to conducting the pre-attack surveillance for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Heyman said this information sharing is a critical tool and that the U.S. would like to see Europe have a similar system. “Parliament has not rejected that agreement, they have said they have questions about it and they want to strengthen the privacy protections in it and a number of other elements,” he said.
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