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Malaysian Jet's Disappearance Exposes Security Gaps

The investigation into the Malaysian airliner which disappeared last Saturday has brought up questions about security, especially since two of the plane's passengers were traveling with stolen passports. A data base for passports does exist but it’s not clear why it was not checked by Malaysian officials.

An Italian man’s passport was on the Malaysia Airlines flight, but he was not.

Luigi Maraldi reported his passport stolen two years ago. The information went into an international database of 40 million stolen or lost passports monitored by Interpol. But the database was not checked before the flight took off and then disappeared on Saturday.

In fact, Interpol says passengers worldwide last year were able to board planes one billion times without having their passports checked against the database.

Congressman Adam Schiff, a senior member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee expressed concern.

"The fact that two people traveling with fake passports on a flight of this size, and it's not uncommon, reveals a glaring hole in our security," said Schiff.

Two stolen passports and other unknowns are why CIA Director John Brennan has not ruled out terrorism.

“Were these individuals with stolen passports in any way involved?” – he asked.

The database is available to Interpol’s 190 member countries and will be accessible to others.

The United States is one of the largest contributors - with three million records - and does not permit flights to enter or leave the U.S. without checking it. But, Shawn Dray, Interpol’s Washington director, told VOA in this exclusive interview the database gets limited use from most other countries.

"Sometimes over-classification can get in the way, sometimes diplomacy can be an issue between countries, political issues can come up. But if you take a look at Interpol and its services that it provides, it’ll just be a matter of increasing those services, and doing what we already do. We will just do it better and we will do more of it.”

Aviation consultant Vahid Motevalli says the size of the database is a problem.

“Sometimes passports are reported stolen and maybe they’re lost and they may be found. “But there is cost and time involved in all of that and that’s perhaps why [the databases] aren’t widely used,”

The Interpol database was created in 2002, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. It was hoped that the database would help prevent future attacks.

But as CIA director Brennan says, there are too many “curious anomalies” to know what really happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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