News reports Thursday reveal flaws in our post-9/11 life in the United States.
It turns out that U.S. citizens who are considered a terror threat and banned from flying on passenger planes have no restrictions that keep them from taking flying lessons, the Chicago Tribune reported. The “loophole” (more like a black hole in security) came to light during a Wednesday congressional hearing into security lapses at the nation’s 935 accredited flight schools.
U.S. citizens are screened against terrorism databases only after flight training, when they apply for a pilot’s license. More than 550 Americans are on the no-fly list.
When it was learned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the al-Qaida terrorists responsible had attended flight schools in Florida, Arizona and Minnesota, security checks were added for people coming to the United States to enroll in flight schools. But they weren’t added for U.S. citizens.
“I’m shocked to hear that someone on the no-fly list can be approved for flight lessons,” said Mike Rogers, R-Ala., a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. “It is mind-blowing.”
It’s shocking that this was uncovered only because security officials launched an investigation in 2010 after a Boston-area aviation school was found to have been training illegal immigrants. Investigators have identified 30 such people who attended flight school. They are under investigation for immigration violations. But not for suspected terrorism.
It was also in 2010 that U.S. citizen and Texas resident Andrew Joseph Stack III flew his plane into the Austin IRS building, killing himself and IRS worker Vernon Hunter, 68, a husband and father and Vietnam veteran. It remains the only successful airborne attack on our shores since 9/11.
It’s shocking that Homeland Security and congressional committees didn’t direct more attention to our potential home-grown terrorists, despite the evidence.
Meanwhile, a federal judge Wednesday ordered a Tennessee county on to allow a Muslim congregation to open its new mosque after a two-year fight from opponents. Residents sued on the grounds that Islam is not a real religion and that local Muslims intended to overthrow the U.S. Constitution in favor of Islamic religious law. Despite this, a judge upheld the injunction for another reason, (not enough notice), which is why it ended up in federal court. During this time, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was subject to acts of vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.
It’s difficult to admit when the enemy looks like us, that the enemy can be us, but we can’t let it get in the way of our safety and security, and our ability to identify all real threats.