When you travel, airport security agents may pat you down, inspect your deodorant and scan your body from head to toe. But there’s a good chance that no one’s checking whether you’re using someone’s lost or stolen passport.
A gaping, if little-known, loophole in international aviation security came into broader view Sunday when the international police agency Interpol said its computer systems had contained information on the theft of two passports that were used to board an ill-fated Malaysia Airways flight – but no national authorities had checked the database.
Largely unheeded, Interpol has long sounded the alarm that growing international travel has underpinned a new market for identity theft and bogus passports have lured many people: Illegal immigrants, terrorists, drug runners, pretty much anyone looking to travel unnoticed.
It’s not known whether stolen passports had anything to do with Saturday’s disappearance of the Boeing 777 bound from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board. But such oversights aren’t new – and Interpol hopes national authorities will “learn from the tragedy.”
More than 1 billion times last year, travelers boarded planes without their passports being checked against Interpol’s database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents, the Lyon-based police body said.
- Vahid Motevalli, aviation expert at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville.