Curbing Terrorists' Mobility

Jul 31, 2018

Terrorists like to travel. “Terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qa'ida depend on travel,” said Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales to Trans-Atlantic alliance partners at a recent conference hosted by the German Marshall Fund. “They have to travel to receive training. They have to travel to case their targets. They have to travel to carry out their attacks. Every time they board a plane or cross a border, we have an opportunity to detect and capture them.”

“When ISIS attempted to create a physical Caliphate, an unprecedented number of foreign terrorist fighters – roughly 40,000 people – flocked to the war zone in Syria and Iraq. And now that we've liberated some 98 percent of the territory ISIS once held, there's a risk that some of these battle-hardened veterans will return home or relocate to third countries.”

To identify terrorists or suspicious persons hiding among international travelers, the United States uses PNR, or Passenger Name Records, to search out those who may pose a threat and should be prioritized for additional screening. PNR is information provided by passengers and collected by air carriers for enabling reservations and carrying out the check-in process.

In December 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2396, which, among other things, obliges all UN Member States to develop the capability to collect, process, and analyze PNR to limit terrorist travel.

Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales
Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales

The United States applauds the passage of Resolution 2396, and is prepared to help other countries implement their obligations to develop PNR systems. So we will continue to push for fast and full implementation of Resolution 2396 and to highlight the value of PNR. We will also share our PNR system with any country that wants it.

And we will work with the International Civil Aviation Organization to establish appropriate Standards and Recommended Practices for PNR.

“The United States and the nations of Europe are strategic partners on virtually every major issue of the day. Indeed, more than partners – allies and friends. Nowhere is this transatlantic synergy more apparent than in our joint struggle against global terrorism,” said Ambassador Sales.

“We share the same values, we share the same interests, and we share the same enemies. In short, we're in this together. There's a lot of work ahead of us in the fight against terrorism. Only by facing it together can we win.”