Bungling by the FAA threatens national security nearly a decade after 9/11

Hi Gang:
I was sent the extremely disturbing news report that appeared in the New York Times on July 28, 2011 by Bruce DeCell whose son-in-law was one of the many killed by terrorists as a consequence of the attacks of September 11, 2001.  (I would remind you, should you have somehow lost track of time that we are just about one month away from the 10 year anniversary of that horrific events that transpired on that date.)
The New York Times report was entitled:

“27 Deemed to Be Threats Held Aviation Licenses”

This news article was predicated upon a report issued by the Inspector General (Internal Affairs) that has oversight responsibility for the FAA  (Federal Aviation Administration).  
Here is a link to the article:
Here is a link to the Inspector General’s report:
The title of that report was:
“Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Vetting of Airmen Certificates and General Aviation Airport Access and Security Procedures”

Over the past ten years our nation has spent huge sums of money and we, the citizens of this nation, have witnessed such an erosion of our expectations of privacy and a curtailment in our rights that the Fourth Amendment is truly a shadow of its former self.  These have been attributed to our nation’s “War on Terror.”
As a former Senior Special Agent of the INS who has conducted investigations into international terrorists and transnational criminals, whose tactics are all too often nearly indistinguishable from that employed by terrorists, I certainly understand the need for many of the measures that have been taken.
In preparing to board an airliner, passengers are often subjected to a search that is even more thorough than a search conducted by law enforcement officers when they arrest a suspect who is believed to have committed a felony.
HOWEVER, it is utterly unfathomable that the FAA has no meaningful handle on those to whom that agency has issued pilots licenses.
The headline of the New York Times article downplayed the level of the incompetence to be found in the FAA’s supposed efforts to manage its Airman Registry.  It is not that the potential that 27 terrorists or criminals holding pilots licenses is not a serious issue- let us not forget that the devastating attacks of a decade ago were conducted by 19 terrorists, it is that there are, in reality, many thousands of licenses pilots and the FAA cannot really be certain about their true identities!
Similarly, a news report issued by an online magazine, HS Today.US (Homeland Security Today) also managed to provide a title for its article that addressed that same IG report, that could not sound any more innocuous:
“TSA, FAA Could Use More Info to Expand Security Checks for Pilots”
It does not take much to realize that the magnitude of the incompetence of the FAA is nothing short of insane- just consider this excerpt from the New York Times news report:


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.

The report offers no details about the 27 individuals whose certificates were canceled, but does indicate the poor state of federal records, almost a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks. An initial computer scan found about 29,000 certificates that matched names on the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, but further study found that 28,500 of the matches were invalid; 506 were turned over for closer scrutiny, yielding the 27 names.


The point is that the charade of national security that is touted by our “leaders” does not in any way, shape or form match the abysmal reality of the situation!
To say that the FAA could use more information in dealing with pilots license would be the same as the Captain on the Titanic announcing to the passengers, after the iceberg was struck by that ill-fated vessel, that the passengers might soon experience an increase in dampness!

I also want to highlight another point that is addressed in the excerpt I posted above- consider this sentence:

“T.S.A. may not identify U.S. citizens who have provided false biographic information to receive an airman certificate.”

The above noted quote addresses the issue of United States  Citizens but in reality not only citizens of our nation may have pilots licenses that enable them to fly in the skies over our nation.  Furthermore ther have been many aliens who have succeeded in acquiring United States citizenship via fraud including a woman, several years ago who was a citizen of Lebanon who had entered the United States with a student visa.  She subsequently entered into a sham marriage that ultimately enabled her to become a naturalized citizen who went on to become an FBI Special Agent and then left that job for a position with the CIA.  Her deception was discovered when she accessed databases she had no authorization to access.
Additionally, consider the issue of aliens who make false claims to United States citizenship and acquire identity documents to support those false claims.  
I have also provided you, below, with another disturbing news report that appeared online today at the Federal Observer’s website.  The report detailed how nine illegal aliens allegedly managed to acquire pilots licenses and are being prosecuted by the federal governemnt.  According to that news report, seven of those aliens were identified as being citizens of Venezuela.
I know nothing about these seven individuals but it is important to realize that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is certainly no ally of the United States!
A recent Pentagon report noted that increasing numbers of Iranian Qods “Shock Troops” had been sent to Venezuela.
The Washington Times published a report on April 21, 2010 about this disturbing and growing threat that was entitled:
“Iran boosts Qods shock troops in Venezuela”
Here is a link to that news report:
Here is the link to the report that the Pentagon provided to Congress on Tehran’s military that served as the predication for the news report:
It would certainly not be beyond the realm of possibility for such soldiers to be provided with actual Venezuelan passports by the Venezuelan government, to enable them to move freely about Latin America and the United States without raising suspicions!

This is the sort of thinking that our leaders must engage in to “connect the dots!”
The HS Today article also made a point that should give you serious “cause for pause!”
Consider this unbelievable statement:

“The IG report further observed that TSA does not issues security restrictions for roughly 19,000 US general aviation airports, except for those in the National Capital Region. As such, those airports do not require pilots to present their certificates at all before entering their facilities and flying away – unlike commercial airports where pilots undergo security screening.”


Apparently anyone could most likely walk into one of 19,000 general aviation airports in the United States, hop into an airplane and head for the “wild blue yonder!”  While it would be nearly impossible to find a wide body jet in such an airport, there are many general aviation airports where multi-engine airplanes do land and take off, including business jets.  Think of the potential damage such airplanes could do in the hands of a determined terrorist or wacko who may have lost a license for a variety of reasons but knows how to fly such an aircraft!
Meanwhile very young children and the elderly are being all but strip searched!
The final paragraph of the New York Times article reflects the concerns voiced by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV about how the FAA has failed to properly identify many pilots who hold licenses that enable them to fly freely around our country.  Consider that paragraph as it appears in the article:

John D. Rockefeller IV, one of the senators who requested the investigation, said Thursday that the report “shows that almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, the F.A.A. is still not doing enough to verify the identity of airman’s certificate holders and that some certificate holders have connections to terrorism.” Mr. Rockefeller, who is a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of an aviation subcommittee, said that the F.A.A. and Homeland Security were making progress, but that “issuing certificates to people who pose a threat to our aviation system is simply unacceptable.”


I certainly understand Senator Rockefeller’s concerns about verifying the identity of those who hold pilot’s licenses, indeed I share his concerns- however, he must consider how sweeping amnesty programs for illegal aliens would enable aliens to create brand new identities for themselves.  He must also come to understand how “Sanctuary Cities” also enable illegal aliens and the criminals and terrorists among them, to embed themselves in such havens for foreign nationals whose true identities are unknown and unknowable!

Simply stated- you cannot have it both ways!  Undocumented aliens are illegally present in our country and the fact that they are “undocumented” means that they have no reliable, verifiable way of proving who they are.  False identities serve as a camouflage for criminals and terrorists the same way that changes in coloration enable certain creatures to hide in plain sight, often among their intended victims!

This is why I have come to refer to Comprehensive Immigration Reform as the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act!”

On June 22, 2007 the Washington Times published an Op-Ed piece I wrote in which I laid our my grave concerns about the national security implicaitons for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Here is a link to my article:

Approximately 5 years ago, I was called upon to provide testimony at a hearing called by the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on the national security implications of an amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens whose true identities, backgrounds, potential affiliation with criminal or terrorist organizations were unknown and unknowable.  Here is a link to a video of a portion of that hearing in which I expressed my concerns about the profound harm such a program would, in my judgement do to our nation’s security (The concerns I articulated back then are every bit as relevant today):
Title 8, United States Code section 212 is section of law that enumerates the various categories of aliens who, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, are supposed to be prevented from entering the United States and are supposed to be removed if they are found here:
Please take the time to review the contents of this section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Among the categories of aliens who are supposed to be kept out of the United States are aliens with dangerous communicable diseases, aliens who suffer serious mental illness and are prone to violence, aliens who are convicted felons, aliens who fugitives from justice in other countries, aliens who are human traffickers and drug smugglers, aliens who are war criminals and aliens who have committed human rights violations.  Also aliens who are engaged in terrorism and espionage are among those who are, by law, supposed to be prevented from entering our country and are supposed to be removed if they manage to evade the Border Patrol and enter the United States.
At present it is estimated, by the administration, that more than 230 American cities are infested by members of the Mexican drug cartels.  Still more cities are infested by other transnational gangs from Latin America, Russia, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and other parts of the world!  Why on earth would politicians who are supposed to look out for the best interests of our nation and our citizens so willing to ignore the immigration laws that, especially now, as we wage a “War on Terror” and a “War on Drugs” opposed to the enforcement of the one set of laws specifically designed to protect us? 

Finally, aliens who evade the inspections process by running our nation’s borders also do not create a record of their entry into our country when they run our nation’s borders, making it easier for them to make false claims to United States citizenship and enabling aliens who may be fugitives from justice in our country or other countries, to enter the United States without making their presence known enabling them to easily hide within our country.

A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!


our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!

We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.  

My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.

The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.

If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same.  We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”

The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.

The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!

The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians.  I implore you to get involved!

I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world.  However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!

If our government’s failures to secure our nation’s borders and effectively enforce our immigration laws concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation! 

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

-michael cutler- 

Please check out my website:

Additionally- this summer, on Friday afternoons from 4:00 PM until 5:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time, I will be filling in for Tom Garcia as the host on The USA Talk Radio Network’s excellent radio show, “The American Hour.”

I hope you will be joining my cohost, Paula Lauzon Ostman and me, on Fridays this summer!

Here is the link for this program:

TSA, FAA Could Use More Info to Expand Security Checks for Pilots, IG Says

By: Mickey McCarter

08/01/2011 ( 4:00am)

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The inspector general (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently assessed security screening for US pilots and afterward faulted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for not collecting enough information from certified pilots and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not checking pilots against all criminal information.

FAA issues airman certificates to pilots, instructors, and others who qualify to fly commercial or general airplanes. TSA in turn runs checks of those certificates against terrorism watchlists to determine that those certified airmen do no pose a threat to US air travel.

But FAA does not collect enough information from pilots to enable those checks to be as thorough as possible, the DHS IG said in a report, TSA Vetting of Airmen Certificates and General Aviation Airport Access and Security Procedures.

“TSA’s ability to vet airman records properly and thoroughly is limited by the quality of the biographic information (eg, name and date of birth) in the FAA Airmen Registry and the databases against which the data are matched. Because FAA does not require unique identifiers, such as a Social Security number, TSA may not identify US citizens who have provided false biographic information to receive an airman certificate,” the report stated.

The FAA Airmen Registry contains information on about 1.3 million individuals. But about 550,000 of those did not list a Social Security number in their registration. FAA cannot compel pilots to provide that information because it does not have the legal authority to demand it; however, pilots can supply their Social Security numbers voluntary.

Protections under the Privacy Act (Public Law 93-579) prohibit federal agencies from mandating Social Security numbers unless expressly ordered to do so by Congress. FAA does not operate with such authority. Instead, the agency must create a control number to track pilots in its Airmen Registry.

But the IG also found inaccuracies in the roughly 750,000 records that do contain a Social Security number, determining that more than 15,000 of them did not match all of the information in the records of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA lists another 8,000 holders of airmen certificates as deceased.

“If FAA does not collect and validate Social Security number information for all applicable registrants, it is easier for individuals to create false identities by using fictitious biographic information,” the report stated.

Although TSA checks pilot information against the Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) maintained by the FBI, it does not check that information against other criminal information, the report noted. 

In some cases, a larger pool of information is not available. The FBI does not receive all outstanding warrants, arrests, and convictions internationally from other law enforcement agencies like Interpol; therefore, its criminal records are sometimes incomplete. 

The DHS IG cited several examples of criminals who held pilots licenses, such as an individual serving 20 years in prison for crimes under the Drug Kingpin Act of 1999 (PL 106-120).

The IG report further observed that TSA does not issues security restrictions for roughly 19,000 US general aviation airports, except for those in the National Capital Region. As such, those airports do not require pilots to present their certificates at all before entering their facilities and flying away – unlike commercial airports where pilots undergo security screening.

TSA reported vetting about 4 million individuals holding FAA airman certificates as of February 2010. TSA ran 6.8 million checks against the TSDB in vetting the pilots. In vetting the pilots, TSA identified about 29,000 certificates that matched names in the terrorist database.

After administrative review, TSA determined that about 28,500 of the terrorist matches were invalid. However, it conducted security investigations on the remaining 506 pilots whose names came up on the TSDB. It further recommended the termination of pilot privileges for 27 of them.

Although the IG report did not make specific recommendations, it heavily implied that FAA would benefit from collecting further biographic information from holders of airmen certificates and perhaps further receiving the authority to collect Social Security numbers. Moreover, the report implied TSA might benefit from wider background checks on pilots.

TSA has authorities to identity individuals who pose a threat to transportation systems under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (PL 107-71) through efforts like its Transportation Threat and Accreditation Center. TSA received further authority to screen individuals before they get an airman’s certificate from FAA under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004 (PL 108-458).

Aliens enjoy easy access to pilot’s licenses
By Joseph A. D’Agostino – Human Events

U.S. attorney in Miami, Fla., has charged nine illegal aliens, seven of
them commercial airline pilots, with possession of fraudulent
immigration papers, raising the questions of just who is flying and
servicing American airplanes and how are they vetted?

government nabbed the nine men only because one turned himself in

Two of the pilots flew small passenger jets for American Eagle, a
division of American Airlines, and two flew cargo aircraft for
Express.net Airlines, whose fleet includes Boeing 727s. Another flew for
Executive Jet Aviation. One was a mechanic and another a fueler. The
two remaining pilots were not employed.

The government, according
to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Les Door, does not
investigate the backgrounds of foreign nationals who apply for
commercial airline pilot’s licenses in the United States. Furthermore,
the FAA automatically grants a foreign applicant a U.S. commercial
pilot’s license, said Door, provided the applicant already possesses a
valid commercial pilot’s license from his native country, and provided
that country is a member of the International Civil Aviation
Organization, or ICAO.

~ How many more? ~
countries in the ICAO include all seven nations on the State
Department’s list of state sponsors of international terrorism – Iraq,
Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Cuba, and North Korea.

This list, of
course, includes the three nations cited by President Bush in his State
of the Union Address as components of an “axis of evil.” Membership in
the axis of evil evidently does not preclude membership in the ICAO.
Thus, axis of evil pilots get an automatic pass from the FAA for
commercial pilot’s licenses here.

The list of nations belonging
to the ICAO, whose nationals have an automatic right to commercial
pilot’s licenses in the United States, also includes Saudi Arabia and
Egypt, the home countries of the Sept. 11 terrorists.

The seven men charged Feb. 9 are from Venezuela and are not accused of anything other than fraud and immigration violations.

is no requirement for pilots to be U.S. citizens, and there is no
requirement that the FAA check their backgrounds,” said Door. “Right
now, if a pilot comes to the FAA and says I have a license from country
X, if they have a license with ratings from an ICAO country, we
reciprocate and give them a license.” Asked if that means a pilot from
Egypt or Saudi Arabia with a license from his home country could now get
a license “automatically from the FAA without a background check,” he
replied, “That’s essentially correct.”

So how many foreign pilots
are there in the United States, and who is checking on new ones coming
to work here? Spokesmen for American Airlines, United Air Lines, the FAA
and the Air Lines Pilots Association said that they did not know what
proportion of pilots were foreign nationals.

“I can’t say,” said Door.

Mazor, spokesman for ALPA, said that he could not quantify the number
but did not think it was great. “My sense is there are very few foreign
nationals who are pilots at U.S. airlines,” he said.

Kurt Iverson, a spokesman for American Eagle, said, “I couldn’t even
tell you. But we fly internationally, so it would be unusual if there
weren’t any foreign nationals. There are lots of international airlines
and I am sure they have pilots from different countries.”

In any
case, there is no need for the United States to import pilots from other
countries at this time. “There is a surplus of pilots right now, since
9-11,” said Iverson. “Lots of airlines have had furloughs.”

Sierra, a public affairs official at the U.S. Department of Justice,
said that he did not know how DOJ could even be involved in checking on
the backgrounds of commercial airline pilots in the United States.

“I don’t know what authority we would have to do that unless we received a referral to the FBI,” he said.

An FBI spokeswoman said, “We don’t get involved in the private commercial airline pilot-hiring process.”

leaves the airlines, bereft of government resources other than standard
databases, to do background checks themselves – something that did not
prevent the seven Venezuelans from getting jobs. “We were fooled,” said
Iverson. “The papers looked legitimate.”

“All airlines do a criminal background check,” said Iverson.

than no criminal conviction, what does a foreign applicant need to get a
job as a commercial airline pilot? “A pilot’s license and a green
card,” Mazor said.

According to government filings in the case of
the nine illegal aliens, one, Pedro Agusti, a pilot with American
Eagle, simply walked into a Miami office of the Immigration and
Naturalization Service in June and confessed to an agent that he was not
authorized to work in the United States. He also told of a scheme in
which illegal aliens were obtaining fraudulent Alien Documentation,
Identification and Telecommunication System (ADIT) stamps, resident
alien cards, green cards and Social Security cards. An ADIT stamp in a
foreign national’s passport indicates that he is a legal, permanent
resident of the United States who has been authorized to work here.
Agusti said that he paid two people $2,800 for a fraudulent ADIT stamp
that he put in his genuine Venezuelan passport.

Agusti gave the
INS the names of over 30 other aliens who, he claimed, had obtained
fraudulent ADIT stamps, which allowed them to acquire genuine Social
Security cards. Agusti’s revelations sparked an investigation involving
several government agencies.
Then, on Feb. 5, a man named Francesco Baffone walked into an INS office
and “described to the INS agent the same scheme described by Agusti
concerning the fraudulent acquisition of false ADIT stamps and Social
Security cards.”

The information led to the charges announced
Feb. 9 against Agusti, fellow American Eagle pilot Luis Garmendia,
Express.net Airlines pilots Arnaldo Azara and Ramon Castillo, Executive
Jet Aviation pilot Pedro Bottome, unemployed mechanic Luis Hernandez,
fueler Luis Gonzalez with Signature Flight Support Center, and
unemployed pilots Juan Silva and Pedro Martinez. The defendants face
maximum prison sentences of between five to 10 years. At a press
conference that day, U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said that the investigation
was “ongoing,” leaving open the possibility of more charges, but a
spokeswoman declined to give details. 

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