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Cablegate: Persistence of Aviation-Related Gap in Border

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
SUBJECT: Persistence of Aviation-Related Gap in Border

Ref: (A) Ankara 1386 (B) Paris 1925

Sensitive But Unclassified. Please Handle Accordingly.

1. (U) This is an action cable. Please see paras 10 and


2. (SBU) GOT and Turkish Airlines officials told us
that, despite a recent decision to institute border and
customs controls at the first airport of entry, the
current gap in border security may persist into 2005.
Turkish Airlines' Security Director told us the airline
strongly supports creation of a air marshal program.
Embassy urges Washington agencies to register USG
concern over the glaring loophole in border controls
through a letter or nonpaper to appropriate GOT
officials. End Summary.

Gap in Immigration/Customs Control

3. (SBU) Econoff discussed aviation security issues with
Turkish Airlines (THY) Security Director Ahmet Kanik on
March 11, and with the Directorate General of Civil
Aviation's (DGCA) Security Director Erdal Ugur on March
16. As reported reftel, the National Civil Aviation
Security Council (NCASC) decided to take steps to return
to a system requiring international passengers to clear
customs and border control at the initial point of entry
to Turkey, but renovations to enable passengers to claim
and recheck their luggage at the international terminal
at Istanbul Ataturk Airport must be completed first.

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4. (SBU) Kanik opined that the change would not happen
anytime soon, since the NCASC had decided that a
conveyor belt must be procured and installed at the
international terminal so that passengers can recheck
their baggage prior to walking to the domestic terminal
for connecting flights. Kanik said the GOT has not
budgeted for the equipment, which would cost about USD
one million, and that, even if the funds were available,
it could take as long as a year to get the new equipment
and the new system up and running.

5. (SBU) Kanik suggested that it would be preferable for
the GOT to perform border controls for all incoming
passengers at the initial port of entry, but allow
passengers to clear customs at their final destinations.
He said that, in any case, passengers would have to pass
through the international terminals at their destination
airports to claim their baggage, and for this reason
would not avoid customs control. Note: The GOT
previously implemented a split border and customs
control regime as described by Kanik. End Note.

6. (SBU) Kanik said he and the airline were extremely
concerned about the current system, which de facto
leaves the decision to go through border controls up to
the connecting passenger. When Econoff noted that the
USG was also concerned about the problem and had raised
it with GOT officials many times, Kanik suggested that a
written communication with the GOT was more likely to
yield results.

7. (SBU) Ugur largely confirmed Kanik's account of the
NCASC decision on this issue. He said that the GOT
aimed to complete a feasibility study by the end of
2004, and to implement renovations by the end of 2005,
but noted that the GOT would do everything possible to
complete at least the feasibility study within the next
few months. He acknowledged that no funds had been
budgeted for the renovation, and said the GOT was
examining ways of obtaining the necessary resources.
Ugur stated that the GOT might opt to return to a split
border/customs control regime if the renovations could
not be completed swiftly.

Air Marshals

8. (SBU) Kanik told us that THY is very supportive of
the concept of putting armed law enforcement officers
(LEOs) on flights, and suggested training and deploying
25 two-person teams for this program. At the NCASC
meeting, THY offered the GOT two free seats (one in
business class and one in economy) on selected flights
for LEOs. According to Kanik, the NCASC put off a
decision on this matter by tasking out feasibility
studies. Ugur told us that a key element of these
studies is an examination of air marshal programs
elsewhere. He reiterated previous GOT requests for
background on the U.S. program (ref A).

Comment/Action Request

9. (SBU) Turkey's current system, which allows anyone
transferring from an international to a domestic flight
within Turkey to avoid border and customs checks, could
be exploited by terrorist and criminal elements. While
we have raised this issue repeatedly, up to the
ministerial level, the GOT is moving slowly. Embassy
strongly recommends that Washington agencies consider
some form of written correspondence, such as a letter
from the TSA Administrator to the Interior Minister on
this subject.

10. (SBU) Embassy appreciates ref B's preliminary
response on our air marshal program and looks forward to
receiving information which we can pass to the GOT.

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