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US tightens no-fly rule after Shahzad's near escape

By Lalit K Jha
May 06, 2010 11:46 IST
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After Times Square bombing plot suspect Faisal Shahzad managed to pass through several layers of security at the New York airport to board a Dubai-bound flight, only to be stopped minutes before take off, the US has tightened its no-fly rules for airlines. The new rules, enforced since Wednesday by the Transportation and Security Administration, came within two days of Shahzad's attempt to flee. The Pakistan-born US national boarded a Emirates flight, even though his name was added to the no-fly list of the United States on Monday.

Under the new regulation, airlines now have to check the government's no-fly list within two hours, which was earlier 24 hours, after they are notified that a name has been added. "It's being done because a review of the situation finds that an airline is required every 24 hours to check the no-fly list. The suspect's name was entered a little after noon, I believe, on Monday, therefore, though on the no-fly list, the airline didn't have to check necessarily at that point," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily newsbriefing. "The new rules require that to happen at a two-hour interval if airlines are notified that somebody's been added as a risk to the no-fly list," he said, adding the reason there were redundancies in the system to ensure that there are many mechanisms that would allow one to prevent somebody from flying, which is what happened in this case.

"The CBP (Custom and Border Patrol) takes a locked manifest, that's required to be filed 30 minutes before a flight, with people that are on the plane. That was checked against that list and the individual was removed from the plane," Gibbs said. Shahzad nearly escaped arrest with only around 20 minutes left for take-off and planes gates closed but the tide turned later -- the gates were reopened and he was arrested.

The Pakistani-American was placed on the expedited no-fly list on Monday at 1230 hrs. Seven hours later at about1930 hrs, he was able to purchase a one-way ticket to Pakistan all by cash. The flight was scheduled to leave at 23:45 pm.

"In his case, the airline seemingly didn't check the name, and the suspect was allowed to purchase a ticket and obtain a boarding pass," a senior administration official told The Washington Post.
"Under the new measure, the airline would be required to re-check the list within two hours of being notified of a special circumstance expedited no-fly name," the official was said as quoting by the daily. However, Emirates Airlines in a statement said it "fully cooperated with and responded immediately to all local and federal authorities on all matters" related to the flight in question.
The airlines also said it is fully compliant with all US passenger check-in procedures and works closely with the US
government "to update security watch lists on a regular and timely basis."
Meanwhile, a group of Democratic Senators urged the US President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that all
airline would automatically have to alert the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if a passenger seeks to buy an
airline ticket with cash.
Senators Benjamin L Cardin, Charles E Schumer and Mark Udall said the new policy would bolster airline security until
the end of the year, when airlines' responsibility for checking passenger manifests against the no-fly list is scheduled to shift entirely to the TSA.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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