US presses Pak for more data on air travellers

To detect patterns used by terrorists and their networks

US presses Pak for more data on air travellers

The US has become wary after the failed Times Square  bombing recently. AFP

Pakistan, like other countries, currently provides the names of airline passengers travelling to the United States. But the administration is pressing for information on Pakistanis who fly to other countries, to feed into databases that can detect patterns used by terrorists, their financiers, logisticians and others who support them.

Pakistan has for several years rebuffed this politically unpopular request as an invasion of its citizens’ privacy. But the issue is now on a “short list” of sticking points between the two countries — including some classified counterterrorism programmes, a long-running dispute over granting visas to American government workers and contractors in Pakistan, and enhanced intelligence sharing — that have intensified since the failed Times Square car bombing on May 1, two senior administration officials said.

The US currently has a range of confidential agreements with countries governing how much information each will share about its citizens travelling on commercial airliners.

Many countries share only information about passengers travelling to the US, while others, including several in the Caribbean, have agreed to share more information about other countries that their residents visit.

In the case of Pakistan, American officials are seeking details like the recent travel histories of airline passengers and how they paid for their tickets.

US deadline

President Obama has given his top aides a deadline of the next few weeks to resolve the issues with Pakistan. That pressure to deliver results has prompted senior officials like Gen James L Jones, the national security adviser, and Leon E Panetta, the director of Central Intelligence Agency, to warn senior Pakistani leaders of the risks to the country’s relationship with the US if a deadly terrorist attack originated in their country.

Some American aides have told Pakistani officials that the US might be forced to increase airstrikes in Pakistan in the event of such an attack.

The New York Times

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