Embassy Training for Airline Personnel Yields Rapid Results in Reykjavik: Fraud Suspect Busted with Altered Passport

January 12, 2015


Just one day after receiving U.S. Embassy-sponsored training in detecting fraudulent travel documents, an Icelandair ticket agent in Reykjavik, Iceland identified a suspicious traveler with an illicit passport and took action that prevented the imposter from flying to North America.

Elvar, the ticket agent, was among some two dozen staffers of airlines and security firms operating at Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik who had received the training the previous day from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.

Date: 09/09/2014 Location: Reykjavik, Iceland Description: A CBP Fraudulent Document Analysis Unit Director (center) and International Liaison Officer (rear right, seated), both with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, discuss passport security features at a U.S. Embassy-sponsored training session for airline and security firm personnel, September 9, 2014, in Reykjavik, Iceland. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image A CBP Fraudulent Document Analysis Unit Director (center) and International Liaison Officer (rear right, seated), both with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, discuss passport security features at a U.S. Embassy-sponsored training session for airline and security firm personnel, September 9, 2014, in Reykjavik, Iceland. (U.S. Department of State photo)

The Carrier Liaison Program (CLP) training is provided at no cost to airline personnel at select air transportation hubs to enhance U.S. border security by increasing commercial air-carrier effectiveness in identifying improperly documented passengers destined to North America. Comprised of interactive training, the curriculum allows participants to engage in “hands on” instruction in fraudulent document identification, passenger assessment, impostor identification, and traveler document verification.

The CLP session in Reykjavik came after months of planning by the U.S. Embassy’s regional security officer (RSO), a former U.S. Border Patrol agent himself. The RSO notes that there was good reason to bring the training to Keflavik.

“Iceland is fast becoming a significant transit point for travelers flying to Canada and the United States,” he says.

The number of passengers transiting Iceland grew by nearly 20 percent in the first eight months of 2014 compared to the same period last year. Airlines departing Keflavik International Airport currently serve nine U.S. cities. By the summer of 2015, those airlines will provide scheduled passenger service from Reykjavik to a total of 14 major U.S. cities.

The Regional Security Office staff in Reykjavik began developing the initiative in April when the RSO consulted with U.S. government agencies responsible for U.S. security and investigative matters in Iceland. During this preparation phase, the RSO traveled to the U.S. Embassies in London and Copenhagen, where he discussed with federal law-enforcement counterparts how enhanced security training might be delivered to appropriate Icelandic partner institutions. After hearing his pitch, CBP agreed to partner with DS to provide CLP training to travel-industry personnel in Reykjavik.

Date: 09/09/2014 Location: Reykjavik, Iceland Description: Employees from airlines and security firms operating at Keflavik International Airport study travel documents for signs of fraud during a U.S. embassy-hosted workshop in Reykjavik, Iceland, September 9, 2014. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image Employees from airlines and security firms operating at Keflavik International Airport study travel documents for signs of fraud during a U.S. embassy-hosted workshop in Reykjavik, Iceland, September 9, 2014. (U.S. Department of State photo)

“The CLP is a key component of CBP’s layered approach, because it focuses on pre-entry and expands the borders of the United States. CLP also shares its expertise with our counterpart border control agencies to undertake enforcement measures that improve the security of trade and travel worldwide,” explains the director of the CBP Fraudulent Document Analysis Unit and lead instructor for the program.

From May to September, the RSO worked with his CBP counterparts on scheduling the workshop, acquiring and distributing training materials, selecting the venue, and other details needed to ensure a successful training event. He also met with airlines and organizations at Keflavik International Airport, including the Icelandic Border Police, to explain the training opportunity and obtain a commitment to have their employees participate.

All of this preparation paid off when more than 120 personnel from Icelandair, Wow Air, Airport Associates (which is contracted to Delta Airlines), and their associated security firms attended the training sessions at Keflavik over four days in September.

Elvar, the ticket agent who identified the traveler with the falsified passport, attributed his successful interdiction to the CLP training that he had attended a day earlier.

“I really listened to the CBP training on September 9, and learned not to ignore my instinct and felt something was wrong with the passenger,” he said. “I used the CBP skills taught the previous day to detect that the passenger was not the true owner of the passport.”

Date: 12/22/2014 Location: Reykjavik, Iceland Description: Just one day after this Icelandair ticket agent participated in a U.S. Embassy-sponsored fraud-prevention course in Reykjavik, he successfully identified a fraudulent passport and notified the Icelandic Border Police, who arrested the illicit traveler carrying the document. (Photo courtesy of Icelandair) © Courtesy of IcelandairJust one day after this Icelandair ticket agent participated in a U.S. Embassy-sponsored fraud-prevention course in Reykjavik, he successfully identified a fraudulent passport and notified the Icelandic Border Police, who arrested the illicit traveler carrying the document. (Photo courtesy of Icelandair)

Following the airline’s security protocol, the ticket agent allowed the passenger to check in, but alerted the Icelandic Border Police, who arrested the passenger at a departure checkpoint. Icelandic Border Police subsequently determined that the suspicious passenger was a Georgian national traveling on a bona fide Israeli passport, with an altered bio-page. The traveler’s intended destination was Edmonton, Canada.

The regional security officer praises CBP anti-fraud trainers for partnering with DS to deliver the high-quality training that paid immediate dividends.

“CBP is an esteemed partner in this regard, and we appreciate their engagement and expertise.”

Icelandair Security Manager Ólafur Ragnar Ólafsson calls the CLP anti-fraud instruction an essential aspect of the relationship between the air carrier and CBP.

“Icelandair fully supports and appreciates the CLP. Icelandair passenger-service staff benefit greatly from the dialogue with CBP’s experts. Elvar’s recent experience underscores that fact,” says Ólafsson. “The CLP training helps us maintain border security requirements in cooperation with the CBP for flights to the United States, one of our first and most important markets.”

The RSO is hopeful that the U.S. Embassy will be able to organize more security workshops and training opportunities for DS’ host-nation partners in Iceland.

“In my past year at post, I have found Icelandic law-enforcement professionals eager to fully engage with their U.S. counterparts,” he says. “We continue to pursue worthwhile opportunities for training and outreach on behalf of our Icelandic colleagues that will enhance their security capabilities and ensure lasting cooperation on criminal investigative and anti-terrorist efforts.”