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Locke asks Govt to lobby US over fingerprinting

4 October 2004

Locke asks Govt to lobby US over transit fingerprinting

Green MP Keith Locke is asking the Government to lobby US authorities to drop the fingerprinting and photographing of Air New Zealand's transit passengers.

"I have written to Foreign Minister Phil Goff to tell him that the inconvenient process, which began on Friday, is causing anger among Air New Zealand passengers," said Mr Locke, the Green Party's Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

"Mr Goff needs to tell the US that such a dragnet is a bad look for a country which claims to champion freedom.

"The plane I was on last night, Air New Zealand 1 from London, was late into Auckland this morning. The reason for that, as explained to passengers by the pilot, was the time taken in Los Angeles processing transit passengers into a secure lounge.

"A major discussion topic amongst passengers in the slow-moving queue last night was how to get from New Zealand to Britain without passing through the United States. This is not good for Air New Zealand, whose only service to Britain goes via America.

"American authorities insisted on fingerprinting and photographing all of the 180 transit passengers even though none of us actually entered the US. The refuelling stopover was supposed to take only two hours.

"I have asked Mr Goff to take the matter up directly with the American authorities, telling him that such pointless time-consuming and intrusive measures can only be bad for Air New Zealand's business and are creating ill-feeling towards America

"I have also asserted that we must demand that they act according to internationally accepted privacy principles, which means that such personal information is not collected without good cause. There is no valid reason for the blanket collection of transit passengers' fingerprints and photo images.

"US Homeland Security obviously believes its power to collect information extends not only excessively into the lives of US citizens but also into those of anyone who it can get its hands on. We should be worried about the uses such a huge volume of personal information may be put to. The Homeland Security system is error-ridden, as we saw last week when a plane was forced to land because former pop singer Yusuf Islam, AKA Cat Stevens, was on board," said Mr Locke.

ENDS

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