POLITICS

UN aviation body: Decade after 9-11, it's time for more focus on identity fraud

09/12/2011 05:27 EDT | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 EST
MONTREAL - The head of the international agency that oversees civil aviation says that, a decade after the 9-11 attacks, world security experts need to focus more heavily on identity fraud.

He made the comments at the start of a four-day symposium that's examining ways to improve the monitoring of passports and travel documents.

"The way forward in my opinion is clear," Raymond Benjamin, the secretary-general of the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization, said Monday.

"We first need to sharpen our focus on preventing identity fraud as we maintain our traditional emphasis on document security."

Benjamin told the international gathering that the global security net has been strengthened since the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"We are better at anticipating, detecting, intercepting and protecting against terrorist attacks and we respond more appropriately when attacks occur or are attempted," he said.

"Terrorists have had to exploit weaknesses much earlier in the production process of identity documents and that's where we have to hit next."

Benjamin added that, for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.

He noted that more than 100 countries put out more secure electronic passports — passports with a computer chip inside. He's urging all remaining states to follow.

The United States has been sending out only ePassports since August 2007 and Canada was to begin issuing ePassports to all Canadians before the end of 2012.

Rand Beers, an Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told the symposium that since 9-11 important strides have been made when it comes to screening people and cargo.

He says there has also been more information-sharing and technological advancement.

"Nevertheless, despite the significant improvements to aviation security in response to the vulnerabilities exposed by the 9-11 tragedy, new threats and new techniques are brought forth by our adversaries," Beers added.

He says if avation security is to continue to be enhanced, continued vigilance, adaption and flexibility is required "by the entirety of the international community."