PNR used to investigate innocent travellers and turn them into suspects
This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Unschuldige Reisende werden mittels PNR überprüft und zu Verdächtigen gemacht | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1970]
It has recently been revealed that UK Police secretly investigated the PNR
(Passenger Name Records) data of 47 000 innocent people having travelled in
and out of UK in 2009.
Checks included scrutiny of the police national computer, financial records
and analysis of “known associates” related to travellers including
information on their family and friends before being cleared for travel. All
the data passengers give to travel agents, including home address, phone
numbers, email address, passport details and the names of family members,
can be shared with Government agencies all over the world for analysis and
stored for up to ten years.
The information is used by the police to issue 14 000 intelligence reports
on travellers, for future use. “Red flags” can mark travellers as potential
terrorists based on information such as ordering a vegetarian meal,
travelling with a spouse of foreign birth, asking for an over-wing seat,
buying a one-way ticket and making a last-minute reservation. Travelling to
the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iran can also bring about a red
After the investigation of a total of 48 682 people, the system has led to
the arrest of 2000 people. The police is rather targeting sex offenders and
football hooligans. The Home Office states the system has led to arrests of
murderers and rapists and to 1000 people being denied entry to Britain. But
no terrorists have really been spotted out by the system.
US civil society group Papers Please notes that “it’s tempting to think that
ID and PNR-based travel control systems don’t “work” as anti-terrorist
measures” because of the incompetence of the US authorities implementing it.
Yet, the British system proves to be as faulty thus suggesting the system
does not work as a concept and not due to its execution.
The system, strongly criticised by civil liberties campaigners, may
hopefully be stopped by Britain’s new coalition Government.
Papers Please! – Statistics on UK travel surveillance and control
Outrage at secret probe into 47,000 innocent flyers (16.05.2010)