Cablegate: More On Turkish Airport Security

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: In December 3-4 meetings with Turkish
officials responsible for aviation security, EconCouns
reiterated the USG's strong interest in Turkish
airport/aviation security efforts and expressed concern about
a loophole in the current system that enables some passengers
arriving on international flights to Ankara to evade
immigration processing. The officials acknowledged that, due
to passenger complaints, aviation authorities had recently
abandoned the requirement for all international passengers to
go through immigration at their port of entry in Turkey, and
that the current system -- based on sorting passengers by the
color of their boarding passes -- was not being effectively
implemented. Embassy is following up with other GOT
agencies. End Summary.

2. (SBU) EconCouns discussed airport/aviation security with
Director General of Civil Aviaition Topa Toker December 3 and
with Turkish National Police Protection Department Chief
Mustafa Bal December 4. He welcomed the GOT's new airport
security procedures (reftel) and its continued cooperation
with TSA on security at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, and
reiterated the USG's continuing interest in Turkish
airport/aviation security efforts at domestic as well as
international airports. Toker and Bal both stressed that
they implemented the same comprehensive security practices at
all airports, domestic and international. Bal noted that
they had sent a notice to all airports in early November --
before the Istanbul bombings -- urging them to maintain a
high level of alert.

3. (SBU) EconCouns expressed concern about the recent
reappearance of an apparent loophole in procedures that would
enable international travelers to avoid going through Turkish
immigration in some cases. Several Embassy officers arriving
in Ankara, via Istanbul, on international flights in recent
weeks had noticed that airline staff were asking
international passengers to board one bus (going to the
international terminal) and domestic passengers to board a
second bus, going to the domestic terminal, where there is no
immigration or customs control. However, at least on these
flights, airline staff did not check to verify that
passengers boarded the correct bus, meaning that any
international passenger could easily have boarded the bus to
the domestic terminal and bypassed all entry controls. (Note:
International passengers did not pass through immigration or
customs in Istanbul. End note)

4. (SBU) Toker and Bal said that, approximately a year ago,
in response to similar embassy expressions of concern,
aviation authorities had issued instructions requiring all
international passengers to go through immigration and
customs at the first port of entry (usually, but not always,
Istanbul). In response to passenger complaints, however,
authorities had reversed that decision effective October 1.
Toker and Bal explained that, under the new system,
international and domestic passengers received different
color boarding passes, and airline staff were required to
segregate passengers upon arrival based on those boarding
passes. Toker argued that this system was effective.

5. (SBU) EconCouns responded that our own experience
indicated that the system was not effective, as Embassy staff
had witnessed first-hand on several flights that airline
staff were not making any effort to control what in effect
was a "self-segregation" mechanism. He added that we
considered this loophole to be a serious security problem,
and asked that GOT authorities look into it right away.

6. (SBU) Toker agreed to take a look at the system. Bal
acknowledged that the airlines did not appear to be
implementing the new mechanism in a disciplined manner, and
said Embassy's comments would give him ammunition to fight
for a return to the pre-October 1 security system. Embassy
will continue to press the GOT, including the Ministry of
Interior, to close this loophole, and will keep Washington
advised of developments. .


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