The Department of Homeland Security would be directed to draft best practices for using biographic traveler information and information about reservations and itineraries for counterterrorism screening under a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The Screening and Vetting Passenger Exchange Act of 2017, H.R. 4581, would also make the best practices available to other countries, including those that take part in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
The European Union adopted a measure requiring member states to use these datasets — referred to as Advance Passenger Information (API) and passenger name record (PNR) — to screen travelers potential criminals and terrorists in April 2016. Customs and Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration also currently use the datasets to confirm traveler identities and travel patterns.
U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY), the sponsors of the bipartisan bill, said the United States needs to hold itself to the best vetting standards in the world.
“As an FBI supervisory special agent, I saw firsthand the dangers that terrorism poses to our friends, our families, and our communities, especially when traveling,” Fitzpatrick said. “I also saw my colleagues in the bureau and across our nation’s security and intelligence agencies hampered in their mission by a lack of information sharing between the United States and our allies, and when other countries abided by less stringent security and vetting protocols.”
Authorizing DHS personnel to work with VWP countries to raise international vetting standards will increase the safety of the United States, “and the safety of all people, across the globe,” Fitzpatrick added.
With emerging and evolving threats, Rice said the United States must do a better job of vetting passengers and sharing information with international partners.
“We can’t defeat these threats alone,” Rice said. “We need to set and hold ourselves to the best vetting standards in the world, and we need to work with our partners overseas to make sure they can meet the same standards. This bipartisan legislation will help us do exactly that, and getting it signed into law will be an important step in our ongoing efforts to prevent terrorists from traveling to the U.S. and carrying out attacks on American soil.”