Various media outlets have reported on Northwest Airlines` participation
in a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aviation
security research study. In response to these reports, Northwest Airlines
released the following statement:
“In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 tragedy, NASA had discussions
with Northwest Airlines` Security Department regarding a NASA research
study to improve aviation security. In December 2001, NASA requested
that Northwest`s Security Department provide it with passenger name
record data from the period July, August, and September 2001 for NASA`s
exclusive use in its research study. Northwest Airlines agreed to
provide that data.
On September 23, 2003, after a speech to the St. Paul (Minn.) Rotary
Club, Richard Anderson, Northwest Airlines chief executive officer,
responded to a reporter`s question regarding JetBlue Airway`s release of
passenger data to a private contractor. He said, `Northwest Airlines
will not share customer information, as JetBlue Airways has.`
At the time Mr. Anderson answered this question, he had no knowledge of
the Northwest Security Department`s provision of passenger data for the
NASA research study.
On the previous day, a Northwest spokesperson was asked questions on the
same topic. When the spokesperson answered those questions, he also had
no knowledge of the Security Department`s role in the NASA study.
On September 26 2003, Northwest Airlines CEO was advised of the Security
Department`s provision of passenger data to NASA.
The NASA research study has been discontinued and the passenger data has
been returned to Northwest Airlines.
Northwest believes that it was appropriate to provide data directly to
NASA for a research study designed to improve aviation security. In the
immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, the federal government was
searching for technological solutions to improve aviation security and it
was the responsibility of the airline industry to cooperate with these
By providing the passenger name record data directly to NASA, a federal
agency with its own strict privacy protections, Northwest acted
applicable federal laws.
Northwest Airlines` current policy is to not provide passenger name
record data to private contractors or federal government agencies for use
in aviation security research projects. While Northwest Airlines still
believes it would be appropriate to provide such data to the U.S.
Government to advance aviation security, in light of current privacy
concerns, Northwest believes a data protection protocol addressing privacy concerns should be developed before any further aviation security
research with passenger data is conducted.”