Airlines will soon be required to give the government passenger lists for all U.S.-bound international flights before takeoff, the nation's homeland security chief said Wednesday.
The new regulations, which could be in place by early next year, would make permanent a counterterror measure taken after last week's foiled plot to bomb trans-Atlantic flights.
"This is part of our border authority," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"The reason we haven't moved this is because the airlines were concerned about what they would do about passengers who would come up at the last minute, and they don't want to hold the flights up," Chertoff said. "Our position has been: Isn't it better to know before the plane takes off than to turn the plane around? Which I think is correct. So we're on a course to getting this piece nailed down."
Chertoff said the policy switch was already being discussed before British authorities said they had cracked a months-long plot to bomb as many as 10 flights headed for the United States from London. After announcement of the plot, the U.S. government demanded that airlines submit their passenger lists on all inbound flights from the United Kingdom.
Airlines have long resisted handing over the lists, concerned that the time it takes for the government to screen passenger names against terrorism databases will bring costly delays.