Washington: The passenger name records of the
airlines travel, commonly known as PNR, has emerged as having
a key role in many prominent terror investigations including
the Mumbai terrorist attack and Times Square bomb plot, US
lawmakers and experts have said.
"PNR has played a key role in many prominent terror
investigations, including that of the 2008 Mumbai attack
plotter David Headley and the attempted Times Square bomber,
Faisal Shahzad," said Congressman Jackie Speier at a
Congressman Patrick Meehan, who chaired the Congressional
hearing on "Intelligence Sharing and Terrorist Travel: How DHS
Addresses the Mission of Providing Security, Facilitating
Commerce and Protecting Privacy for Passengers Engaged in
International Travel", said in 2008 and 2009, PNR helped the
US identify individuals with potential ties to terrorism in
more than 3,000 cases.
"Among these was the Mumbai attack plotter David Headley,
who was arrested in Chicago after US authorities accessed his
PNR data from a flight he had booked from the United States to
Germany. Headley has since pled guilty to a separate plot to
murder journalists from a Danish newspaper," he said.
"PNR data also identified Faisal Shahzad, the perpetrator
of the failed Times Square bombing in May 2010, who was caught
with the help of PNR as he attempted to escape the United
States at JFK Airport. In 2010, approximately one quarter of
those individuals denied entry into the United States for
having ties to terrorism were initially tied through PNR
data," Meehan said.
PNR, Speier said, can be immensely important to terrorism
"Investigators can use a terror suspect`s past travel
history to identify travel to terror safe havens, as well as
co-travelers who may be associates, which can help to identify
and disrupt the entire terror network," he said.
PNR is the data that an airline receives from travellers to
book and manage their reservations. This can include the
traveler`s itinerary, payment method and contact information,
said Thomas Bush of the Customs and Border Protection.
"It is one of our most important tools in the ongoing
fight against terrorism, as well as narcotics smuggling, human
trafficking and other transnational crime," he said.
"One important example of it is the case of Najibullah
Zazi-- the al Qaeda trained operative who planned to explode
improvised explosive devices in the New York City subway
system," he said.