Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Sensible comments from Canada on no-fly lists

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Very refreshing. Don’t look for Mike Chertoff to say anything like this:

Canada’s privacy commissioner says there was very little consultation with her office before the Conservative government introduced a no-fly list for air travellers last June.

And Jennifer Stoddart told the Air India inquiry Tuesday that she has so far seen little rationale for the list, part of the so-called Passenger Protect Program.

Stoddart told inquiry Commissioner John Major she is concerned that people could be placed on the list in error and face dire consequences if their identities are then disclosed to the RCMP or passed on to police agencies in other countries.

And she questioned why, if people are so dangerous that they can’t get on a plane, they are deemed safe to travel by other means in Canada.

“These are hugely general criteria and one wonders if there are these dangerous individuals who are being watched by the RCMP and CSIS, what are the dangers that they are posing, not only to airline security, but to ordinary citizens in other modes of transport in day-to-day existence?” Stoddart testified at the Ottawa inquiry.

Under the program, Canadians cannot find out in advance if they are on the no-fly list, but would be rejected at the check-in counter if there is a match to their name.

Between June 28, when the program came into effect, and the end of September, no passengers were turned away because of the list, the inquiry heard. Stoddart said that information only increases her suspicion about the value of the program.

“I think it only deepens the mystery of the rationale, the usefulness of this,” Stoddart said. “The program is totally opaque.”

Major suggested that perhaps less extreme measures could be taken. For example, individuals on the list might be able to undergo extra screening so they could be allowed to travel.

Major added that he doesn’t understand why a person cannot get on a plane if authorities take sufficient precautions. In extreme situations, he noted, a person could undergo a body search, and board the aircraft if no threats are detected. Risky passengers could conceivably also be “handcuffed to the seat” and still be allowed to get to their destinations, Major said.

“We are looking to avoid what happened in 9/11. Presumably it’s to keep dangerous people capable of blowing planes up – or capturing them  – off the plane. It seems difficult that you can do that by a name (on a list) alone.”

Other members of Stoddart’s staff added there are concerns someone could be stranded in Canada after arriving without incident, only to be prevented from boarding their return flight.

Some of the concerns they have raised have made a difference. The government decided to delay implementation of the program for youth aged 12 to 18 after Stoddart’s office got involved.

The inquiry is looking at several matters in the context of the June 23, 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 and the unsuccessful prosecution of two Sikh separatists for the terrorist act.

Stoddart’s testimony touched on two of the inquiry’s mandates, airport security and terrorist financing.

She noted there are also privacy concerns related to the government agency formed to collect data related to possible money laundering and terrorist financing.

Her office is currently involved in an audit of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada with respect to the privacy of bank accounts of Canadians. The audit is expected to be completed by next March.

The inquiry was expected to move into closed-door hearings later Tuesday over whether a proposed witness would have an impact on national security.

Inquiry lawyer Mark Freiman told Major that he wants to call evidence that the Department of Justice has rejected on the grounds of national security. The nature of the evidence was not disclosed and a ruling is expected later this week.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2007 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Daily life

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