May 18 2010

USA presses travel surveillance and control agenda at ICAO

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been holding another round of meetings this week at its headquarters in Montreal.  As we predicted, the US delegation has been pressing its vision of an integrated and standardized global system of surveillance and control of air travel, in which government access would be built into airline reservation systems (think, “CALEA for CRSs and PNR data”, worldwide) and government permission would be a prerequisite to boarding any flight on what used to be considered a “common carrier” required to transport all comers.

It’s hard to know what’s going on at ICAO meetings if you aren’t there (think of other international bodies like the WTO and WIPO), and no privacy or civil liberties group was in attendance. But outsiders can get some sense what’s in ICAO’s pipeline from its own recently-published Vision 2020 10-year plan and from the working papers submitted by participants in last week’s sessions of the facilitation panel, including these:

  • A proposal to add compliance with ICAO’s “recommendation” for governments to require airlines to provide Advance Passenger Information (API) to ICAO audits of national aviation safety and security practices. (obviously a final step before changing the “recommended practice” to a “required practice”, after which countries which don’t mandate provision of API data to governments could be found to have failed ICAO. “safety” audits, which would typically result in their airlines and/or airports being blacklisted internationally)
  • A report from US Customs and Border Protection on its use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, including an offer from CBP to “continue to assist member States by providing concepts and ideas on the management of PNR data and how best to utilize this data for targeting purposes.”
  • A report on the establishment of a new API/PNR working group and its coordination with existing standards for mandatory passenger information provided to governments, which were developed by ICAO jointly with the World Customs Organization Organization (WCO) and the airline trade association IATA.
  • A report (see esp. the diagram on p. 3) from IATA on its “Passenger Experience Management Group” — the successor to the airline industry’s earlier multi-year “Simplifying Passenger Travel” (SPT) business process automation project — explicitly identifying government “authorisation to proceed” as a standard step before baggage check-in or boarding.
  • Recommendations by European airlines for mandatory inclusion and use of biometrics in machine-readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) and their integration into airline and border control procedures.

Throughout these ICAO working documents, it’s clear that what are to be “facilitated” are airline industry business processes and government surveillance and travel — not the free movement of people.  Despite mention by one airline of the recent resolution of the European Parliament (which established Article 12 of the ICCPR on freedom of movement as part of the terms of reference for EU-DHS negotiations on government access to PNR data), passengers’ rights under the ICCPR, other treaties, or national laws (such as the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights) are never mentioned.  That isn’t likely to change unless national governments include in their delegations to ICAO representatives of agencies whose primary responsibility is to civil liberties, human rights, and privacy, and unless civil liberties, human rights, and privacy organizations from civil society band together and commit the resources to obtain observer accreditation and maintain a joint observer presence at ICAO meetings.

5 thoughts on “USA presses travel surveillance and control agenda at ICAO

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