World

Malaysian Flight 370 Shows Problem In Passport Checks

INTERPOL reports the two stolen passports used to buy tickets on the flight have been in the organization's database of stolen documents for a year.

Malaysian Flight 370 Shows Problem In Passport Checks
Wikimedia Commons / Laurent ERRERA
SMS

The search continues for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. But while a multi-national search team tries to find the missing plane, the International Criminal Police Organization, or INTERPOL, says one thing is already clear: stolen passports were used to buy plane tickets, and that could have been avoided.

The organization says the passports of Luigi Maraldi and Christen Kozel were used to buy tickets on the now-missing flight, but those passports had been reported stolen at least a year ago. INTERPOL keeps a database of lost and stolen travel documents with more than 40 million entries. (Via Sky News)

The problem, according to INTERPOL's secretary general Ronald Noble, is many countries just don't check the database.

He said in a statement, "Why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place? ... I sincerely hope that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy ... and begin to screen all passengers' passports." (Via Wikimedia Commons / INTERPOL)

Though the disappearance of Flight 370 can't be confirmed as an act of terror, the fact that two tickets were bought with stolen passports at roughly the same time sends up a lot of red flags.

NBC points out stolen travel documents were used to carry out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 2003 assassination of Serbia's former prime minister.

ABC calls the fact that a billion passengers fly internationally without having their passports checked a security loophole, but adds, "Malaysia would hardly be alone in failing to check travelers' passports."

Though more than 160 countries contribute to INTERPOL's database, the U.S. and the U.K. are the most frequent users of the tool searching the database a combined 370 million times per year, almost half of the database's 800 million searches per year. 

For its part, INTERPOL has been encouraging more widespread use of its data. Just four months ago, the organization reached out to the travel industry to help with a pilot project called "I-Checkit," which, in theory, would prevent stolen passports from being used at all. In an eerie foreshadow, Noble spoke about fixing the passport problem before, "it is just tragically too late."