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Bill would alert American travelers about passport checks

Published: Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:03 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO – U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk wants the federal government to alert American air travelers about which airports around the world are failing to routinely check passengers for stolen passports.

The Illinois Republican has proposed legislation to require the U.S. State Department to publish a list of airports that do not check passengers’ travel documents against Interpol’s database of lost or stolen passports.

The issue came to light during the investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, which disappeared last month. Two Iranian passengers boarded that aircraft with stolen passports, though investigators say there’s no evidence either man had anything to do with the plane’s disappearance. It is believed the two men were trying to immigrate without legal permission to Europe.

Kirk told reporters in Chicago on Friday that U.S. travelers should at least be made aware of the potential security lapse when they travel to countries with weak passport checks.

The U.S. and Britain are among the few countries that reference passports against the Interpol data, Kirk said. The database contains more than 40 million names, passport numbers and other identifying information.

“My concern is that Americans should know when they fly to those countries that do not routinely use (Interpol’s) database,” Kirk said.

The senator was joined Friday by University of Chicago professor Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism.

Pape said terrorist groups already use stolen passports and will no doubt have taken note of the revelation during the airline investigation that few countries check the Interpol database.

Publishing a list of airports with weak controls could prompt more countries to tighten their procedures and close this loophole, Pape said.

“Once we make this information public, then what we’re likely to see is a number of reverberations, positive benefits from this,” Pape said.

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