An important element was left out of the anti-terrorism package passed last month and signed into law by President Bush.
In the Senate version but inexplicably dropped before the package reached the president's desk was a requirement that all airlines flying into the United States make passenger manifests available so that law enforcement can scan them against lists of suspected terrorists.
The U.S. Customs Service reports that it gets about 85 percent of international flight passenger information under a voluntary arrangement with foreign airlines.
But among the 15 percent that don't voluntarily comply are Aer Lingus, EgyptAir and Royal Jordanian Airlines. That means carriers bringing passengers from Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan refuse to disclose their passenger lists.
That might have been considered merely troublesome before Sept. 11. It is now unacceptable.
EgyptAir agreed last week to comply with the voluntary program.
That is not enough.
Customs commissioners and the Immigration and Naturalization Service have urged Congress to pass legislation requiring that incoming airlines report their passenger lists. ...
Requiring airlines to report passenger manifests is not the answer to terrorism in itself, but it is part of the skein of a net to catch or at least dissuade would-be terrorists by making it more difficult to come into the country anonymously.
The legislation itself could be simple enough: Disclose your passenger manifests or be denied U.S. landing rights. American airline passengers are putting up with a lot of inconveniences. This seems very little to ask of those who want to fly here.
-- Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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