WASHINGTON, March 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- News reports that stolen Austrian and Italian passports were used to book two airline tickets on the disappeared Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 intensifies the need for full and immediate implementation of biometric passports and borders, including a biometric exit program in the United States. Biometrics assure that people are who they say they are, and makes it extremely difficult for identities to be stolen and travel documents to be used illegally. The 9/11 Commission recommended biometric borders when it was determined that al Qaeda relied heavily on counterfeit and stolen passports for clandestine travel.
"Fully biometric passports and readers can prevent stolen passport holders from successfully bypassing immigration authorities," said Janice Kephart, founder of the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA) and former 9/11 Commission border counsel. "Moreover, biometric borders are now cost-effective, extremely fast, and are currently enabling countries like New Zealand to incorporate airline check-in with immigration check-out, building seamless convenience for the traveler and safer skies."
Identity assumption remains possible where passports do not meet the international standards requiring inclusion of a biometric, or a country fails to implement processes to read biometrics. Today, the United States and countries around the world, including Austria, Italy and Malaysia, issue e-passports that meet international security standards. However, where countries fail to embed biometric readers into border processes at both entry and exit, the likelihood of success for a stolen passport to be used for purchase and check-in of an international flight increases substantially.
The 9/11 Commission border team concluded that the 9/11 terrorists had engaged in a specific terrorist travel operation. In other words, not only did the four nearly simultaneous hijackings of four commercial airplanes constitute a coordinated operation, but so did the hijackers' travel. This coordinated operation was dubbed "terrorist travel." The Commission stated:
Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points. In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected. See 9/11 Commission Final Report at p. 384.
Anyone planning clandestine travel understands the importance of success and consequences of detection. In the case of Malaysia, it was viewed by Osama bin Laden as an "excellent" venue for meetings because Muslims could enter without a visa, including those with Saudi and Gulf passports. See 9/11 Commission Final Report at pp. 59-60.
The investigation into the disappearance of the Malaysian flight calls for a conclusive answer as to the ticket-holders' identities, and conclusive information on whether these individuals boarded. What remains clear and unmistakable is that these individuals should never have been able to use the stolen passports to gain access to international travel at all.
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SOURCE Secure Identity & Biometrics Association