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Air security milestone for U.S.

WASHINGTON - All 197 airlines that fly to the United States are now collecting names, genders and birth dates of passengers so the government can check them against terror watch lists before they fly, the Obama administration announced yesterday.

Getting all air carriers that travel to or through the United States to provide this information marks a milestone in the government's counterterrorism efforts and completes one of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. The program, called Secure Flight, has been delayed for years because of privacy concerns and went through three versions before it was approved. It's designed to give U.S. authorities more time to identify and remove suspected terrorists from flights and reduce instances when passengers are mistaken for people on terror watch lists.

Previously, airlines have been responsible for checking the passenger lists against terror watch lists. But the airlines did not have any information other than a name. Now the screening is done by the Transportation Security Administration. The more information available about a passenger, the less likely a passenger will be mistaken for someone on a watch list. - AP

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