HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Saturday that the case of a young Chinese man who boarded a flight to Canada elaborately disguised as an elderly white male raises concerns about a security breach that terrorists might exploit.
Authorities have not suggested any terrorist link to the case of the man who boarded the Air Canada flight in Hong Kong on Oct. 29 wearing a remarkably detailed silicone mask to make him look like an elderly man. An internal intelligence alert from the Canadian Border Services Agency shows before-and-after photos, and says the man removed the mask in a washroom in mid flight.
Air Canada confirmed a passenger on board flight AC018 had altered his appearance and had been met by border services officials in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Chinese man is seeking refugee status in Canada in what border officials are calling an "unbelievable case of concealment." Canadian authorities did not release any information about the passenger's identity.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews expressed concern over the broader implications of an elaborately disguised man being able to board a commercial airliner under an assumed identity.
"That issue is very troubling," Toews said.
Napolitano expressed similar concerns on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum about the use of such "an elaborate mask."
"I saw the pictures. I don't have the actual operational details, but I think these are further illustrations of different tactics and techniques used," Napolitano said.
The passenger was seen at the start of the flight as an "elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young-looking hands," a Canadian Border Service bulletin said. Later in the flight, however, "the subject attended the washroom and emerged an Asian-looking male that appeared to be in his early 20s."