The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Hearing reveals flight school security loophole

WASHINGTON -- U.S. citizens who are considered a terror threat and banned from flying on passenger airplanes can nonetheless learn to fly without hindrance, a glaring loophole that emerged during a congressional hearing Wednesday into security lapses at the nation's 935 accredited flight schools.
"I'm shocked to hear that someone on the no-fly list can be approved for flight lessons," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It is mind-blowing."
U.S. citizens are screened against terrorism databases only after flight training, when they apply for a pilot's license. More than 550 U.S. citizens are on the no-fly list, a database that is kept by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when al-Qaida terrorists who had attended flight schools in Florida, Arizona and Minnesota intentionally crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, security checks were added for people coming to the United States to enroll in flight schools. But those checks were never extended to U.S. citizens despite growing concerns in recent years about so-called "homegrown" terrorists launching attacks on U.S. soil.
U.S. flight schools are generally less expensive and more rigorous than those in other countries, and often enroll a large number of foreign students each year. About 30 percent of students enrolled in flight classes in the U.S. are foreign nationals.
An audit of the flight school screening program by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that existing measures are falling short. Investigators found that some foreigners had completed flight training without a full background check, and that some flight school students were in the country illegally.
"Foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm... could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting," Stephen Lord, a GAO investigator, told the House panel.
Homeland security officials launched an investigation in 2010 after a Boston-area aviation school was found to have been training illegal immigrants to fly airplanes. Investigators so far have identified 30 people who may be in the country illegally and successfully attended flight schools. They are now under investigation for immigration violations.
Story tags » FederalTerrorismGeneral Aviation

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Photo galleries

» More HeraldNet galleries

HeraldNet highlights

Lofty potential for drones
Lofty potential for drones: Aircraft could be used in real estate, other businesses
A community of kindness
A community of kindness: Seahawks home a display of affection for couple's daughter
Looking for a friend?
Looking for a friend?: Animals up for adoption at the Everett shelter (7 new photos)
Super snacks
Super snacks: Best finger-food recipes to make for the big game
SnoCoSocial