Seeking International Consensus on Airline Security

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano met in Geneva, Switzerland Friday with members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a group representing approximately 230 airlines which in aggregate account for more than 90 percent of the world’s air traffic.
The meeting included IATA CEO and Director General Giovanni Bisignani and leaders from approximately 20 airlines from across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America.
The topic: how to coordinate international and US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security standards.
Emphasizing the airline industry’s role in implementing stronger and more effective international security measures, Secretary Napolitano outlined four broad areas for international public-private collaboration improving information collection and analysis; increasing information sharing and collaboration in passenger vetting; enhancing international security standards; and deploying new screening technology.
“Effective aviation security relies upon close coordination between airlines, government and law enforcement to identify, deter and disrupt threats,” said Secretary Napolitano. “I am committed to working closely with the airline industry and my international counterparts to strengthen global aviation security standards for passengers traveling to the United States and around the world.”
IATA Director General and Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani, echoed Secreatary Napolitano’s remarks, stating that, “"The challenge is to protect the benefits of aviation connectivity and eliminate the threats."
"Governments and industry have the same goals but different expertise,” Bisignani added. “ Governments understand the threats and the tools needed to mitigate them. Industry has the operational expertise for effective implementation. Working together is the only way forward."
Bisignani praised Napolitano and the US government for proactively engaging with the industry, saying that IATA and Homeland Security officials agreed to follow-up meetings in coming weeks.
Among the recommendations advanced by the IATA summit were:
• Creating a model for government and industry to cooperate on writing security policies;
• Having government recognize "that prescriptive, one-size-fits-all regulations with numerical targets will not secure a complex global industry" and work with industry to "define practical implementation measures for their security targets";
• Creating a single passenger data collection and sharing program that could be a model for other governments;
• Having governments talk to each other to ensure that one country’s requirements do not conflict with another’s laws;
• Working toward future checkpoints that combine technology and intelligence.
"We need a checkpoint system that focuses on finding bad people, not just bad objects," Bisignani said.
On Thursday Napolitano’s was in Toledo, Spain, where she met with representatives from several European Union nations to discuss ways to strengthen international aviation security standards.
The Toledo meeting, the first high-level trans-Atlantic meeting on the aviation security since the Dec. 25 bombing plot of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, was billed as the first of a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.
European Union member nations such as Germany and Spain have publicly rejected the use of the X-ray or microwave full body scanning technology proposed by the US, claiming it exposes passengers to privacy invasion and potential health risks.
At the Toldeo meeting Napolitano minimized the debate over full body screening. I don’t think the issues of aviation security pivot only on whole-body scanners,” she said. “They pivot on unity of efforts so that Al Qaeda won’t be able to carry out a successful attack on an airplane. We want to deprive them of that opportunity because they clearly intend to do so.”
Earlier this month, Secretary Napolitano dispatched Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary forPolicy David Heyman and other senior Department officials to meet with government leaders and major international airport executives in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and South America to review airport security procedures and work on ways to collectively bolster our tactics for defeating terrorists.

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