Edwin Mora, CNS News, July 18, 2012
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved flight training for 25 illegal aliens at a Boston-area flight school that was owned by yet another illegal alien, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The illegal-alien flight-school attendees included eight who had entered the country illegally and 17 who had overstayed their allowed period of admission into the United States, according to an audit by the GAO.
Six of the illegal aliens were actually able to get pilot’s licenses.
Discovery of the trouble at the flight school began when local police—not federal authorities—pulled over the owner of the school on a traffic violation and were able to determine that he was an illegal alien.
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.
The GAO report, released today, is entitled General Aviation Security: TSA’s Process for Ensuring Foreign Flight Students Do Not Pose a Security Risk Has Weaknesses.
A GAO official told CNSNews.com that, based on their names, none of the 25 illegal aliens who attended the flight school appeared to be from Muslim countries. Instead, they had Latin American names.
The GAO’s Stephen Lord, in his prepared remarks, told lawmakers that the TSA does not screen new and existing FAA pilot license holders against the Terrorist Screening Database until after the foreign national has completed flight training.
“Thus, foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm, such as three of the pilots and leaders of the September 11 terrorist attacks, could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting,” warned the GAO.
The TSA and ICE are working on a pilot program for vetting the names of foreign nationals against immigration databases.