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DHS taking over checking passenger info against watch lists

  • Story Highlights
  • The DHS will assume responsibility from airlines for checking passenger info
  • Information on international passengers must be provided prior to departure
  • Policies designed to prevent need to divert planes due to watch list concerns
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday it is changing the way aviation security is handled, which will allow it to take over the role of checking passenger information from airlines.

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff outlined new aviation security policies Thursday.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff told a news conference at Ronald Reagan Airport that just one year ago a plot was uncovered to blow up airliners leaving Britain for the United States, and the changes planned would further advance authorities' ability to identify potentially dangerous people before they board a plane.

He outlined two new policies.

For international flights, air carriers flying to and from the United States will have to provide manifest information about passengers -- either 30 minutes before departure or as each passenger checks in.

That information would then be checked against watch lists. Previously, the federal government was not receiving that information until planes were en route.

Chertoff said the new regulation will give U.S. Customs and Border Protection more time to check names, and prevent the need to divert planes or send them back to their departure airport due to watch list concerns.

For domestic flights, the DHS will assume responsibility from airlines for matching watch lists against passenger lists.

DHS sources say the airlines have not been doing the job consistently or effectively.

Chertoff said the Transportation Security Administration would receive information for each passenger as early as 72 hours before a scheduled departure and will determine if it matched information on government watch lists.

He said the information collected, such as the passenger's full name and date of birth, is intended to reduce potential misidentification.

The TSA will begin testing the system this fall. Previous attempts by the Department of Homeland Security to take over the function from airlines have failed amid objections from privacy advocates. Chertoff insisted the amount of personal information collected would be minimal and would not infringe privacy.

DHS says the changes will implement recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission to provide consistent passenger pre-screening against government watch lists. Chertoff said his department was determined to do everything it reasonably could to protect the traveling public from the sort of people involved in the London plot last year. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

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