WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation authored by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY) to better protect American travelers through data and advanced information passed the House Tuesday (415-1).
The Screening and Vetting Passenger Exchange Act of 2017 [H.R. 4581] directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary to develop best practices for utilizing advanced passenger information and passenger name record data for counterterrorism screening and vetting operations. It also directs the Secretary to make the best practices available to certain countries, including Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, and provide assistance to those countries in implementing the best practices.
“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. 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,” said Fitzpatrick. “Allowing our men and women on the front line of the fight against terrorism to work with Visa Waiver Program countries to make sure that they rise to the same standard only increases the safety of our nation, the safety of Americans traveling abroad, and the safety of all people, across the globe. This legislation is step in the right direction towards addressing further potential emerging threats.”
"As the threat of terrorism and foreign fighter travel keeps evolving, we have to keep doing a better job vetting passengers and sharing information with our international partners," said Rice. "We can't defeat these threats alone. 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."
Advanced passenger information (API), or biographic information about a traveler, and passenger name record (PNR) data, or data about a traveler’s reservation and itinerary, are valuable tools used for screening and vetting potential criminals and terrorists. DHS, especially Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), utilize these data sets to confirm the identities and travel patterns of travelers before they are able to enter the U.S.
In April 2016, the European Union (EU) adopted a new directive requiring its member states to utilize PNR data for the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of terrorist offenses and serious crime. While this is a positive step by our European allies, many EU countries lack the knowledge, expertise, or capability to implement this directive by the May 2018 deadline. Therefore, H.R. 4581 directs DHS to leverage its expertise and experience utilizing API and PNR data by developing best practices and making them available to VWP countries—many of which are in the EU. This will not only strengthen the security and capabilities of our foreign partners, but will also have a major impact on the security of the homeland.
The legislation is Fitzpatricks fouth bill passed this Congress.