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'US to seek overflight passenger lists'

April 21, 2005 16:15 IST
Foreign airlines flying over American airspace will have to turn over the passenger list or check the names against US government watch lists under a new anti-terrorist proposal, reports The Washington Post.

Current rules require overseas carriers to provide passenger manifests to US officials within 15 minutes of takeoff if they are to land in the US. But US officials have been concerned that terrorists may try to hijack a plane over the United States and crash it into a building, as occurred on September 11, 2001, the Post said.

"We are currently considering a measure that would require foreign carriers to vet their passenger manifests against the 'no-fly' list and 'selectee' lists on overflights," the article  quoted Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Yolanda Clark as saying.

'The no-fly list is a secret list of thousands of names of known or suspected terrorists who may pose a threat to US aviation. The selectee list contains the names of individuals who are not known terrorists but present a possible threat to the airplane,' the Post said.

Foreign Airlines that fail to comply with the order might have to re-route flights, the TSA said, sparking objections from carriers, particularly the European, Canadian and Mexican carriers which operate most of the 800 daily overflights.  

"For example, if a flight from Canada to Mexico were to have a passenger whose name matched one on the no-fly list, the flight would not be allowed into US airspace. The passenger would have to be removed from the flight, or if the plane happened to already be in the air, it would have to fly around the United States to reach its destination," the Post quoted an official familiar with the plans as saying.

'Similarly, if a passenger's name were to match one on the selectee list, the passenger would have to undergo more thorough security screening before boarding the plane,' the source said.  

Aeromexico, which has 18 weekly flights from Mexico City that cross US airspace on their way to Europe, said that the US proposal might violate international transit agreements and that it is consulting with the Mexican transportation department to "present our legal position for this potential requirement," the article said.

On April 8, a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Mexico returned to Amsterdam after it was prohibited from flying over American airspace because two passengers were found to be on the US government's no-fly list. 

The two Saudi passengers had trained at the same Arizona flight school as September 11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, the article quoted a law enforcement source as saying.

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