UK Guardian: Security services and police to get UK air passenger d

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2006-01-24 11:53:45… Security services and police to get UK air passenger details in advance · 40m on domestic flights and ferries affected · Law will facilitate scrutiny of terror suspects Alan Travis, home affairs editorTuesday January 24, 2006The Guardian The police and security services are to be given access to advanced travel details on more than 40 million passengers a year who travel on domestic flights and ferries within Britain under legislation to be announced tomorrow. The new power in the police and justice bill will give the authorities the ability to screen and track the movements of suspected terrorists and serious criminals within Britain for the first time. It is expected that airlines will have to provide the personal online details of all passengers as they book seats and subsequently check in at the airport. There are discussions with the travel industry over what documents passengers will have to show before they can board a flight in Britain. The new system will enable them to check names against watchlists for terror suspects and wanted criminals and to develop a “profiling system” of those worthy of further scrutiny. It is hoped that the system will help the security services develop a picture of terror and crime suspects’ travel patterns and networks. On specified routes where there is considered to be a major threat, the police will be able to demand the provision of “bulk data” – blanket passenger and crew lists – on all flights travelling on that route before departure. The Liberal Democrats said last night that they were extremely concerned about the routine surveillance of domestic passengers and claimed that Britain was now building a surveillance infrastructure unparalleled in the free world. The monitoring of domestic travellers builds on the experience of a three-year pilot scheme under which the details of 10 million passengers on selected international flights have been monitored since last January. Known as Project Semaphore this pilot scheme receives data on passengers leaving Britain only after their flights have left, yet the Home Office claims that eight terror suspects have been detained in the UK or overseas as a result. One person has also been arrested for indecency and a child porn suspect identified. The police say that access to advance information would have enabled them to stop the terror suspects boarding their flights. At present the police have the power only to collect passenger data for counter-terrorism purposes under the Terrorism Act 2000: “These powers do not enable them to obtain information for serious and organised crime purposes, nor do they allow the capture of information in advance of a passenger travelling. In addition, the current legislation does not allow the provision of bulk data.” The immigration bill going through parliament will initiate an advanced passenger information scheme for international flights in and out of Britain as part of a wider European move that has been the subject of a major dispute between the United States and the European Union. It is part of the government’s E-borders programme. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is to announce that he intends to extend these powers to all domestic passengers travelling on flights and ferries. Airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet already insist on photo-ID before a passenger boards a domestic flight. Some airlines have expressed concerns that the demand for online information will extend existing check-in times. One operator has estimated that the process will add 40 seconds to the 60-second average check-in time, but that included manually typing in the home address and place of birth of each passenger. It is anticipated that identity documents will contain, sooner rather than later, such information on a machine readable strip. The police say that a combination of operational experience, specific intelligence and historical analysis will be used to build up pictures of suspect passengers and patterns of travel behaviour. They claim this will enable them to develop a more targeted approach which will reduce the likelihood of innocent travellers being stopped and incorrect intelligence reports being filed. But such “profiling” of passengers has proved highly controversial in the United States. The new Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Alistair Carmichael, said last night: “I am extremely concerned at the suggestion that ordinary people could be put under routine surveillance on domestic flights. Tracking cross-border movements in and out of the UK is necessary for proper immigration control. But there will have to be some pretty compelling arguments before we allow that principle to be extended to every journey inside the UK. “It is increasingly clear that the government is building a surveillance infrastructure which is unparalleled in the free world,” he said. Gus Hosein of the pressure group Privacy International said: “New Labour has decided that it is no longer a crime for government to amass all that they can on each and every one of us. This is a novel interpretation of ‘big government’. “

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