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In our opinion: Better airline security necessary on international flights

Published: Saturday, March 15 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik creates a sculpture depicting the missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft on the beach in Puri, India, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

Associated Press

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The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 raises questions about security practices among international airlines that are worthy of intensive review, regardless of whether they played a role in what happened to the ill-fated jetliner.

The fact that two passengers were able to board the plane using stolen passports is evidence of potentially dangerous gaps in the systems governing security of international travel. To Americans accustomed to a high level of inspection and oversight during air travel, the fact that passengers traveling under false identity can so easily board an international flight is startling.

There is no evidence the two men in question, both Iranian citizens, had anything to do with the plane’s disappearance. Nevertheless, their actions have brought attention to the fact that the level of commitment to security on international flights can fluctuate greatly among countries and airlines.

Relatively few airports or airlines are connected to the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database managed by Interpol, which tracks terrorists and people suspected of serious crimes. The database has 40 million entries and last year produced 60,000 successful hits. But fewer than 20 of Interpol’s 190 member nations are connected to the service, which would have quickly exposed problems with the documents carried by the two men who boarded Flight 370.

All American international airports and air carriers routinely use the database, but many foreign carriers have balked at the cost of connecting to the system. Whatever the expense, there is good reason for all nations to work toward some level of uniformity in the administration of security precautions. Connection to the Interpol database seems a good place to start.

The case of the Malaysian airplane should prompt the United States to work with countries whose airlines carry American passengers and fly to American airports to better screen the passengers who board their planes.

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