October 22, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security will take responsibility from airlines for checking passenger names against watch lists beginning in January and will require all commercial passengers for the first time to provide their full name, date of birth and gender as a condition of boarding a flight, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The changes will be phased in next year for the 2 million passengers each day aboard domestic and international flights to, from or over the United States. It marks the Bush administration’s long-delayed fulfillment of a top aviation security priority identified after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an effort that has long spurred privacy concerns.
Speaking at Reagan National Airport, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said that by gathering more personal information from passengers, the government will dramatically cut down on instances of mistaken identity that have wrongly delayed travelers or kept them off flights.
Over the years, countless travelers have faced difficulties because their names are similar to those on the agency’s no-fly list or a second list of “selectees” identified for added questioning.
They include infants and toddlers, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and the wife of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Catherine, whose name is similar to Cat Stevens, the former name of the watch-listed pop singer who converted to Islam.
“We know that threats to our aviation system persist,” Chertoff said. “Secure Flight will help us better protect the traveling public while creating a more consistent passenger pre-screening process, ultimately reducing the number of misidentification issues.”