The government needs broader access to airline passenger information to identify potential hijackers, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in an article published Tuesday.
"How do we thwart a terrorist who has not yet been identified?" Chertoff wrote in an op-ed article in Tuesday's editions of The Washington Post.
"One way is by using more of the detailed information collected by airlines and travel agencies when an individual books a flight," Chertoff wrote. "These passenger name records contain information, such as travel itineraries and payment details, that can be analyzed in conjunction with current intelligence to identify high-risk travelers before they board planes."
The government has collected such data on travelers flying from other countries to the U.S. since the early 1990s, Chertoff wrote. But European privacy concerns have limited the ability of investigators to share such information between agencies or with their counterparts abroad, he wrote.
"Protecting personal privacy is a part of responding to the post-Sept. 11 world, but it should not reflexively block us from developing new screening tools," Chertoff wrote. "Indeed, more data sharing leads to more precisely targeted screening, which actually improves privacy by reducing questioning and searches of innocent travelers."