All airline passengers on flights to, from and within the United States are being checked against US government security watchlists, the Transportation Security Administration said.
TSA said that all of the nearly 130 international carriers flying to and from the United States have begun collecting new data from passengers, including their full name, date of birth and gender, which are then checked against the lists, a program known as Secure Flight.
All domestic carriers began collecting that data in June, reports Reuters.
“Secure Flight more effectively helps prevent misidentification of passengers who have similar names to those on the watchlists and then obviously helps better identify those who may be a known or suspected threat to aviation,” TSA Administrator John Pistole told reporters.
The information is passed along for checks against the watchlists as soon as the data is received by the airline, he said. The checks were recommended by the 9/11 Commission that examined the 2001 attacks on the United States.
TSA hopes the program will help reduce complaints by passengers who have tried, but failed, to clear their names from databases. But Pistole said TSA has yet to see a drop in redress requests even though US airlines began collecting the additional information and providing it to US authorities a few months ago.
TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, have ramped up security checks in the wake of attempted attacks, including the 2009 Christmas Day plot in which a passenger flew to the United States with a bomb hidden in his underwear.
While some US officials overseas had been tipped off about the individual, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, his name was not shared widely among the intelligence community and was not included in the US watchlist databases like the No Fly list.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni affiliate of al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for that attack and a plot last month in which toner cartridges were stuffed with explosives and sent via FedEx and UPS to the United States.
They were intercepted by authorities in Dubai and England and defused before they could detonate.
Separately, Pistole said that the travel period over the Thanksgiving holiday was “smooth” despite a backlash by some travelers about new screening procedures at US airports that included full body scans and physical patdowns.
“There was no new tactical intelligence in terms of threat” during that period, he said, but cautioned that “obviously the overall strategic threat remains a concern.”