THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM

Spain to monitor all passenger flight data to identify jihadists

Interior Ministry to create air travel database, despite EU committee’s rejection of measure

A protest in Madrid against the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ terrorist attack.
A protest in Madrid against the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ terrorist attack.gorka lejarcegi

The Interior Ministry is to begin compiling an airline passenger database to help stop suspected jihadists and other dangerous criminals from entering Spain, despite complaints by the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee that such action would violate EU laws, government sources said.

The Passenger Name Record (PNR) will be used to collect information on flight reservations, including whether they were made online or via a travel agency; how they were paid for; and whether the planned route is frequently used by terrorists.

The United States, Canada and Australia are already using the PNR to prevent terrorist attacks

By considering these “risk factors,” government sources said police would be able to trace suspects before they board their flights or intercept them at any time during their journey.

Spain will be joining 14 other European nations in implementing the PNR. In April 2013, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted to reject the mechanism, considering it would violate the civil rights of all airline passengers.

The Socialists, Liberals, Greens and United Left parties in the European parliament supported the committee in rejecting the plan, which was proposed by several nations, including Spain.

€50 million in funding

The Spanish government has decided to implement the PNR because it believes that the mechanism does not violate EU privacy protection regulations or its Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Spain, as well as the other 14 nations that want to introduce the system, has created a special unit to monitor airline and passenger data from flights entering its airspace.

“It is all underway,” said an Interior Ministry source. In fact, the European Commission has already allotted around €50 million from its anti-crime budget to finance these early detections systems.

Without this type of information, Interior Ministry sources said it would be impossible to stop jihadist terrorists or other criminals at airports or before they reach Spanish territory.

The United States, Canada and Australia are already using the PNR to prevent terrorist attacks, sources said.

Spain and other countries are “very concerned” about the thousands of Europeans who have traveled to Syria to join terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State.

Government sources said these individuals posed a risk if they return to their countries of origin because they have been trained in combat and know how to handle weapons and explosives.

PNR is “fundamental” in detecting and investigating jihadists from Syria, Iraq, Mali and other conflict areas, they said.

Last October, interior ministers across Europe stressed the need to come up with an EU directive on the issue for the sake of global security.