The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved flight training for 25 illegal aliens at a Boston-area flight school that was owned by 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.
The GAO reported that the discovery of the trouble at the flight school began in March 2010, when local police pulled over the owner of the school on a traffic violation and were able to determine that he was an illegal alien. In response to this incident, ICE launched an investigation on both the school and the students enrolled.
The report also says, 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.
"We have cancer patients, Iraq War veterans and Nobel Prize winners all forced to undergo rigorous security checks before getting on an airplane," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security. "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."
According to the 911 Commission Report, four of the Sept. 11 hijackers who entered the United States with legal visas had overstayed their authorized period of admission.
The Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) is a TSA program developed after 9-11 to help determine whether foreign students enrolling at flight schools pose a security threat.
“According to TSA officials, when a foreign national applies to AFSP to obtain flight training, TSA uses information submitted by the foreign national--such as name, date of birth, and passport information--to conduct a criminal history records check, a review of the Terrorist Screening Database, and a review of the Department of Homeland Security’s TECS [anti-terrorism] system,” Lord testified.
However, a “weakness” in TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program, noted by GAO, is that it does not check for immigration status.
“AFSP is not designed to determine whether a foreign flight student entered the country legally; thus, a foreign national can be approved for training through AFSP after entering the country illegally,” stated the GAO in its report.
The TSA and ICE are working on a pilot program for vetting the names of foreign nationals against immigration databases. However, the GAO noted that the two agencies “have not specified desired outcomes and time frames, or assigned individuals with responsibility for fully instituting the program.”
The GAO further stated, “We recommended that TSA and ICE develop a plan, with time frames, and assign individuals with responsibility and accountability for assessing the results of their pilot program to check TSA AFSP data against information DHS has on applicants’ admissibility status to help detect and identify violations, such as overstays and entries without inspection, by foreign flight students, and institute that pilot program if it is found to be effective.”
“DHS concurred with this recommendation and stated that TSA will prepare a plan by December 2012 to assess the results of the pilot program with ICE to determine the lawful status of the active AFSP population,” said the GAO.
Read the full story and the GAO Report at CNS News
Updated: Fri, Jul 20th 2012 @ 1:06pm EDT