Tags: Lax | LAX: | Feds | Target | No-Visa | Program

Lax at LAX: Feds Target No-Visa Program

Monday, 06 May 2002 12:00 AM

The Los Angeles Times said there was no evidence that potential terrorists have entered the United States through the alleged security crack, but the FBI and immigration agents suspect that airline personnel at LAX have helped smuggle passengers out of the airport.

"We are not far enough into the investigation to know if it has been exploited by terrorists," the Times quoted a federal source as saying.

The potential security breakdown involves the federal Transit Without Visa program that allows air passengers traveling between foreign destinations to visit the United States for brief periods without visas during layovers.

Such passengers are generally confined to secured lounge areas while awaiting their connecting flights. But federal inspectors are concerned that the guards, who are employed by the major airlines, either are not keeping an eye on the passengers or are helping some of them exit the airport, possibly just to look around the city for a few hours or to slip into the country permanently.

The newspaper said that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has cited airlines nearly 6,000 times in the past three years for not being able to prove that Transit Without Visa passengers departed the United States in a timely manner.

"There are people in the INS who feel that the Transit Without Visa program has been nothing but an open invitation for people to enter the United States illegally," said Robert Davidson, an official with International Air Transport Association. "The numbers don't support that, but, for some, if you lose one person, that's too many."

Los Angeles has come under particular scrutiny because of the recent discovery of a document-forging ring that supplied phony Social Security cards to hundreds of immigrants, many from the Middle East. A former LAX transit guard from Jordan was among those charged in the ring.

The transit program is valued by the airlines because it allows them to route lucrative overseas flights through the United States without requiring customers to obtain a visa for what should be a brief stay on the ground.

The program was suspended after Sept. 11 and was revived in November with new requirements to check arriving passengers against databases of suspected terrorists.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The Los Angeles Times said there was no evidence that potential terrorists have entered the United States through the alleged security crack, but the FBI and immigration agents suspect that airline personnel at LAX have helped smuggle passengers out of the airport. We...
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2002-00-06
Monday, 06 May 2002 12:00 AM
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