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The Malaysian jetliner probe: Passport insecurity

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Monday, March 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Among so many questions about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 en route to Beijing with 239 passengers is how at least two travelers apparently boarded the Boeing 777 with stolen passports, according to authorities. What's revealed, in part, is a stunning lapse in air-travel security that has gone unaddressed — even after the 9/11 terrorism attacks.

Reportedly the passengers' passports weren't checked against a readily available Interpol database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents. Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble says most countries simply don't routinely make such checks.

“Now we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists,” Mr. Noble said.

It is reassuring that the U.S. uses Interpol's database more than any other nation and issues thousands of “no-board” recommendations to airlines annually, USA Today reports. But Americans flying between foreign airports are “at the mercy of whatever the host and receiving countries are doing,” according to one security expert.

And lest anyone forget, the 9/11 hijackers modified the passports that got them into the U.S., according to the 9/11 Commission.

Simply improving the security of passports is meaningless if other nations don't bother to check if they're stolen. The fact that so many countries shrug off this basic security consideration, especially after the horrible lessons of 9/11, is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable.

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