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Canadians to face more pre-flight scrutiny
Program would let RCMP, CSIS examine 34 pieces of info
Don Butler
CanWest News Service, The Ottawa Citizen

RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport. (Glenn Baglo/Vancouver Sun)

The RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will be able to examine up to 34 pieces of information about everyone who flies in Canada under a comprehensive passenger screening program being developed by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.

Among other things, the program will require airlines to gather and share the full legal name, date of birth, citizenship or nationality and gender of all passengers -- information they don't currently collect for domestic flights.

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The new program will affect about 90 million passenger trips a year, two-thirds of which are purely domestic.

The program is authorized under Section 4.82 of the Aeronautics Act, which gives CSIS and the RCMP the right to receive and analyse Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data from air carriers and operators of aviation reservation systems without a warrant.

API data are collected at check-in and include name, date of birth, gender, citizenship or nationality and travel document information. PNR data are collected at the time of booking and include information relating to a traveller's reservation and itinerary.

Section 4.82, added to the Aeronautics Act in 2004 when the Public Safety Act was passed but not yet in force, also authorizes CSIS and the RCMP to match passenger information against any other data under their control.

The Section 4.82 program "is envisioned as the next step" in a two-pronged strategy to use airline passenger information to combat terrorist threats, said Philip McLinton, a spokesman for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.

The first step -- Canada's new no-fly list -- will be introduced in March for domestic flights and in June for international flights.

Mr. McLinton said it's "impossible to speculate how 4.82 would impact the no-fly list. It's just too early to say."

Since 2002, airlines flying to Canada from abroad have had to provide API and PNR data to the Canadian Border Services Agency, which analyses and risk-scores it to identify passengers who require further review on arrival in Canada. The agency doesn't get the information until flights have departed for Canada.

Under the Section 4.82 program, the collection and analysis of passenger information will dramatically expand. Airlines and operators of reservation systems will have to send passenger information to the RCMP and CSIS for all domestic and international flights. And they'll have to do so before flights depart.

The no-fly program, known as Passenger Protect, obliges airlines to vet the names of passengers against the no-fly list and notify Transport Canada is there is match. That responsibility will shift to the RCMP and CSIS under the Section 4.82 program.

"If somebody did pose a threat with the intelligence we have, then obviously they wouldn't be permitted to board the flight," Mr. McLinton said.

Passenger Protect is narrowly targeted at identifying passengers who pose an immediate threat to aviation security.

But the Section 4.82 program would allow the RCMP to use the information to determine if passengers pose a threat to transportation security generally and in some circumstances, enforce arrest warrants. CSIS could use it to assess potential threats to both transportation and national security.

"The national security component is the key difference," said Mr. McLinton.

There's no timetable yet for introducing the new program. But IBM Global Services completed a feasibility study last year that examined ways of implementing Section 4.82. Mr. McLinton said the government is currently evaluating it. "We're still looking at options."

A draft of the feasibility study, released last month under Access to Information, provides some details of how the new program might work.

IBM was asked to look at four possible options for implementing the Section 4.82 program.

Among them were the Secure Flight system under development in the United States to screen domestic air passengers, and a system used by Australia and New Zealand, known as Advanced Passenger Processing, that screens foreign arrivals.

IBM concluded that none of the options was fully suited for a program under Section 4.82. Instead, it proposes a hybrid that it says combines the best features of each option. The hybrid, it says, has the virtue of keeping data processing within CSIS and the RCMP, "thus ensuring consistency in the vetting methodology and protecting the data from potential compromise."

While some details of the hybrid model were withheld, the study says it would involve automated matching of up to 34 data elements against the no-fly list and CSIS and RCMP "subset databases."

The 34 elements include everything from names, birth dates, phone numbers and citizenship to information about method of payment, class of service, seat preference and itinerary.

The study says CSIS and the RCMP "are planning to develop restricted databases relevant to their respective legislated mandates against which passenger information, so collected, will be matched. For example, CSIS could compare key passenger identifiers with intelligence information in its database in order to identify suspected terrorists."

Under the hybrid option, the no-fly list would be retained but would be automated to allow the RCMP and CSIS to use computer programs to match it against API and PNR data.

Passenger information collected under the program must be destroyed within seven days of receipt, unless it is required for transportation security or national security purposes.

Section 4.82 also authorizes CSIS and the RCMP to disclose passenger information to other organizations or individuals to promote public safety. They include the minister of Transport, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, air carriers, airport operators and police officers.

The study says the Canadian Border Services Agency's current feed of API and PNR information should be modified to add information on domestic passengers and provide data to the RCMP and CSIS prior to flight time.

Under the High-Risk Traveller Identification Initiative, the CBSA already shares some API and PNR data with U.S.authorities via a secure IT link between the CBSA's Passenger Information System and the Automated Targeting System, a controversial U.S. program used to risk score all passengers flying in and out of the United States.

It is unclear how, or even whether, the passenger information gathered under the Section 4.82 program would be shared with the U.S. and other allies.

Implementation costs for the RCMP, CSIS and the CBSA alone would range from $95 million to $270 million, the study estimates, with annual operational costs of between $19 million and $60 million. Costs for Transport Canada are not included in the estimate.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

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