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27 Deemed to Be Threats Held Aviation Licenses
WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration cannot determine the real identities of thousands of the people to whom the Federal Aviation Administration has issued licenses as pilots and aircraft mechanics, but has located an additional 27 who should not have held them because of terrorist connections, according to an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security.
The report was requested two years ago by four senators after a private data analysis company in New York determined that the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 still held an F.A.A. license, as did a man caught trying to smuggle military equipment to Hezbollah in Lebanon, a man convicted of trying to make an airborne poison in his basement and a self-described eco-terrorist who fled the country after he was indicted on a charge of arson.
The F.A.A. and the Department of Homeland Security were supposed to scour the list of licensed pilots, mechanics and flight dispatchers for terrorists under a law approved by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but they have had difficulties doing so despite having access to much more information than the private company.
The new report, by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, found that the F.A.A. had Social Security numbers of only about 750,000 people out of the 1.3 million names in its Airmen Registry, and that among those for whom it had numbers, more than 15,000 of them did not match the Social Security database for name, sex or date of birth. By law, the F.A.A. cannot require a Social Security number, the report noted, and as a result, “T.S.A. may not identify U.S. citizens who have provided false biographic information to receive an airman certificate.”
Not all of the discrepancies represent a potential security threat; the report said that more extensive study over the past few years found that 8,000 of the license holders were dead.
A news report titled TSA Let 25 Illegal Aliens Attend Flight School Owned by Illegal Alien on CNSnews.com on July 18, 2012 was predicated on a GAO report, the title of which could be referred to as one of the most outlandish understatements of the year: General Aviation Security: TSA’s Process for Ensuring Foreign Flight Students Do Not Pose a Security Risk Has Weaknesses.
This understatement, in my opinion, is on the scale of “Houston, we have a problem.” However, in the case of the Apollo 13 mission, the explosion that ripped the service module apart could not have been predicted.
The issue concerning how 25 illegal aliens were able to attend a flight-school nearly 11 years after the terrorist attacks is unfathomable. According to the news report, 8 of the illegal aliens had entered the United States surreptitiously, evading the inspections process that is supposed to prevent the entry of aliens into the United States who among other factors, might be criminals or terrorists. The other 17 were identified as having overstayed their authorized period of entry into the United States. Six of these aliens were granted pilot’s licenses!
As it turned out, the owner of the flight-school was, himself identified as an illegal alien! None of this came to light because of the diligence of the DHS, an agency I have come to refer to as the Department of Homeland Surrender- but rather came to light when a police officer stopped the driver of a vehicle who had apparently committed a violation of motor vehicles laws and determined that the driver was an illegal alien. This driver was the owner of the flight school in question!
What is even more astounding are the circumstances surrounding the owner of the flight school. This excerpt from the news report provides some incredibly disturbing insight that was discussed at a hearing that was conducted by the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security:
Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Ala.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said he found the GAO’s findings “amazing.”
“We have cancer patients, Iraq War veterans and Nobel Prize winners all forced to undergo rigorous security checks before getting on an airplane,” said Rogers, “and at the same time, ten years after 9/11, there are foreign nationals in the United States trained to fly just like Mohammed Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers did, and not all of them are necessarily getting a security background check.”
Stephen Lord, who is the GAO’s director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues, testified about the matter Wednesday in Rogers’ subcommittee. Rogers asked him: “Isn’t it true that, based on your report, the Transportation Security Administration cannot assure the American people that foreign terrorists are not in this country learning how to fly airplanes, yes or no?”
Lord responded: “At this time, no.”
Although the illegal alien who owned the Massachusetts flight school had not undergone a required TSA security threat assessment and had not been approved for flight training by the agency, he nonetheless held two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot licenses, also known as FAA certificates.
Subcommittee Chairman Rogers cited the situation concerning Mohammed Atta, one of the 19 terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Atta was, in fact, one of the leaders of the attack and incredibly, six months to the day after the attacks, he and fellow hijacker Marwan Al-Shehhi had been granted authorization by the former INS to attend flight school in the United States!
That previous case has a special significance for me. On March 19, 2002, the House Immigration Subcommittee conducted a hearing into that monumental fiasco and I was one of four witnesses called to testify at that hearing that was entitled: “INS’S MARCH 2002 NOTIFICATION OF APPROVAL OF CHANGE OF STATUS FOR PILOT TRAINING FOR TERRORIST HIJACKERS MOHAMMED ATTA AND MARWAN AL-SHEHHI”
C-SPAN has posted a link on its website to the video of that Congressional hearing. I urge you to take the time to watch the video of that hearing and consider how much has not changed since the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A transcript of the hearing, in its entirety, can be found online.
In so many ways and on so many levels, our government refuses to take our immigration laws seriously- laws that have just two primary goals, to protect American lives and protect American jobs!
“Sanctuary Cities” that refuse to enforce immigration laws are not punished but lionized by the federal government that, itself, leads the charge in ignoring immigration laws.
Failures to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws impact nearly every challenge and threat America faces today- but first and foremost, these failures threaten national security.
In rising to the challenge of returning the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft and its intrepid crew safely to earth, Gene Kranz, the Flight Director famously said, “Failure is not an option!” Would that our government adopt that slogan and philosophy where immigration and border security are concerned!