By Keith Laing - 03/13/14 01:05 PM EDT
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee are questioning the security of passport checks on flights that reach the United States after an international jetliner went missing with a pair of passengers traveling with stolen passports on board.
The missing plane, a Malaysia Airlines flight, has not been located since losing contact with air traffic controllers about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, last Friday.
The plane was a Boeing 777 that officials have said was carrying 239 passengers and crew members, including three American citizens.
The lawmakers wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson seeking to make sure that passports of passengers who are flying to the U.S. are checked against the international database for travel documents, the International Criminal Police Organization's (Interpol) Stolen and Lost Travel Documents list.
"While these passports were in the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database of INTERPOL, they were not cross referenced against it by either the airline or the appropriate authorities," the letter continued. "This dramatically illustrates a serious flaw in airline security, one that INTERPOL has raised for years, but has not been appropriately dealt with by the international community."
The letter was signed by Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
The lawmakers said they were confident in the United States's airport security procedures, but they say lapses like the missing Malaysia Airlines flight were more common in less developed countries.
"While many countries, including the United States, routinely access the SLTD database, many others do not," the lawmakers wrote. "In fact, according to INTERPOL, passengers boarded airplanes more than one billion times in 2012 without having their passports screened against its databases. Allowing people to use stolen passports to travel about the world puts lives, including those of Americans, at risk."
The lawmakers said it is "imperative for passenger safety and aviation security that we close this loophole to help ensure the safety of the traveling public.
"Beyond assuring us, our colleagues, and the American people, that every passport used in international travel to and from the United States is always checked against the INTERPOL SLTD database, we further request details on any type of program or ongoing negotiations encouraging other countries to use this database for all travelers on international flights," the lawmakers wrote.
The revelation about the passengers who were traveling on the missing Malaysia Air flight sparked fears of a link between terrorism and the airplane's disappearance. Malaysian officials have denied that there is a link between the unchecked passports and the disappearance of the plane.
The search for the missing flight has lasted six days.