- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

The U.S. Customs Service yesterday began conducting intensified examinations of baggage and passengers arriving on international air carriers that do not provide the agency with information about their passengers before arrival in this country.
"International flights pose a national security risk to the United States if the air carriers do not provide customs with comprehensive and accurate data about their passengers prior to arrival," said Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.
"As a result, customs is exercising its authority under the law to conduct 100 percent examinations of all people and luggage disembarking these particular flights," he said.
Since 1988, Mr. Bonner said the Customs Service has operated a program called the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) in partnership with air carriers. APIS includes electronic information about inbound passengers before their arrival in this country.
Customs has used this data to target suspect or high-risk passengers, while facilitating the flow of law-abiding travelers through the clearance process.
Mr. Bonner said that over the years, the vast majority of air carriers have voluntarily provided this information to the Customs Service. As of Nov. 1, the agency was receiving advance data on 85 percent of incoming air passengers. Some air carriers did not participate in the program.
On Nov. 19, President Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, a provision of which made it mandatory for all international air carriers to participate in the APIS program. The law gave carriers 60 days to comply.
On the same day the law was signed, Mr. Bonner sent a letter to air carriers not participating in APIS, encouraging them to begin providing information given the events of September 11. He said in the letter that the 100 percent inspections would begin today.

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