Napolitano: Christmas attack showed need for aviation standards

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is pushing member countries within the United Nations to establish global security standards for commercial airliners.

On Friday, Napolitano said she anticipates “a very good” resolution to come out of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) 37th general assembly, set to take place in Montreal at the end of this month.

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At a lunch sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, Napolitano described the world of international flights as the “lifeblood” of global commerce and said it’s imperative to maintain their security.

“If it goes down or people lose confidence in it, that’s a huge impact on economies around the world,” she said.

The push comes in the wake of the thwarted attack of a commercial airliner over Detroit last Christmas, in which Nigerian native Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is charged with attempting to blow the flight up. The attempted bombing woke the U.S. up to how vulnerable the international aviation system is to infiltration, Napolitano said.

“In the aftermath of the Christmas Day attempt last year…we took a step back and looked at what was really going on with global aviation security…and recognized that the way the global aviation system is set up, if you get access to any one part, you potentially have access to all,” said Napolitano.

The U.N. resolution is expected to address sharing intelligence between countries, as well as regular audits of individual international airports’ security practices.

“I’m not sure that [a global consensus on aviation security] existed prior to Christmas,” said Napolitano.

In connection with the U.N. assembly meeting, the department of Homeland Security is collecting and sharing more passenger name records and advanced passenger information.

“We think that is a great way to make sure that those who pose a threat to aviation are identified prior to the time they even get to an airport much less prior to the time they get screened to get on an airplane,” said Napolitano.

“We are now doing the watchlist checking, not the airlines.”