Communications surveillance
 Travel surveillance
 Identity documents
 Terrorist watch lists
 Migration and border controls
 Security cooperation
 Financial surveillance



Key Players

About the project



International Civil Aviation Organisation

About ICAO

The International Civil Aviation Authority is a large organisation comprising 189 nations. Initially set up to ensure the safety and efficient operation of civil aviation, the organisation plays a highly influential role in setting international standards on many aspects of this area. More recently, the issue of security has been at the forefront of the ICAO's mandate and this has led to the organisation being used as a vehicle to impose controversial counter-terrorism policies, such as the incorporation of biometrics on to travel documents and the universal retention and sharing of passenger information.  

More (formation, objectives and structure of ICAO)

Key ICAO Activities

ICAO details its current key activities as:

  • Aviation Medicine
  • Aviation Security and AVSEC-MCP
  • Environmental Protection
  • Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD) 
  • Strategic Objectives of ICAO 
  • Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP)

Concerns regarding the use of civil aircraft  as targets for the comission of terrorist activites have heightened as a result of recent events. This has led to a tighter security policy,  particularly aimed at air passengers, which has manifested itself in intrusive measures designed to eliminate or highlight 'at risk' cases.  Examples of such measures include the provision of biometric identifiers for travel documents and retention and sharing of passenger data.  Consequently, the issues covered by the Policy Laundering Project will be 'Aviation Security' and 'Machine Readable Travel Documents'.

More information on ICAO' s perspective of Biometrics and MRTDs.

Policy Laundering Issues at ICAO

 The development of machine readable travel documents, such as visas and passports, containing biometrics (as documented above) is a highly contentious issue in many countries. For example, in the United Kingdom, the recent Identity Cards Bill which will mandate the issue of identity cards, containing biometric identifiers, to all residents met with fierce opposition and scraped through the parliamentary process.
Depsite such vocal criticisms and concerns, ICAO is being used as a forum to advance global standards for travel documents, which due to their characteristics will amount to an identity card complete with biometrics. The difference being however that there is a total lack of democratic scrutiny or open debate and select donor states exercise the greatest influence  over the development and implementation of policies.
Of further concern is that many of the arguments promoted in favour of controversial policies is wholly outside the jurisdiction of ICAO, which is not an organisation to protect certain countries' national security interests.

More information on ICAO and policy laundering.

 Key ICAO Documents

Much of the information of ICAO's policy making can be pieced together from the many resolutions and working papers released at each General Assembly Session and accessible on ICAO's website. In addition, the working groups submit reports concerning aspects of policy making that need further attention and provide information as to standardisation and specifications for implementation. 

Unfortunately,  not all documents are accesible to the general public and this includes several of the annexes to the main Convention. Specifically Annex 17, which acts as  the basis for many recommended practices in the field of aviation and security and which are mandatory, is not accessible to the general public despite being the justification for many policies.

More information on ICAO Documentation