Transportation Security Administration
Pilots do a pre-flight check in the cockpit of a commercial airliner.
July 18, 2012
More than a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans, some foreign flight students are still not subject to terror database screening until after they’ve completed pilot training, according to a new report from the government’s watchdog.
“Thus, foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm, such as three of the pilots and leaders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting,” says report, published today by the Government Accountability Office.
In the Sept. 11 attacks, 19 foreign nationals hijacked four commercial airliners and used the planes as weapons to hit the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in the nation’s capital. Several of the hijackers attended more than a dozen American flight schools in the weeks before the attacks to learn how to fly the jets.
After the attacks, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) established the Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP), which is designed to prevent flight schools regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration from “providing flight training to a foreign student unless the Secretary of Homeland Security first determines that the student does not pose a threat to aviation or national security.”
But the new GAO report says that the AFSP database is woefully behind and some of the more than 25,000 foreign nationals who were in the FAA airmen registry were not found in the AFSP database, “indicating that these individuals had not applied to the AFSP or been vetted by the TSA before taking flight training and receiving an FAA airman certificate.”
“It is disturbing to learn we could still be vulnerable to the same actions the 9/11 hijackers took over a decade ago,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Alabama), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
FILE: Jan. 24, 2009. The leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Nasser al-Wahaishi, second from right, is surrounded by deputies in an Internet video. (Reuters)
By Catherine Herridge , June 08, 2012
Hundreds of hardcore Al Qaeda fighters are believed to be occupying the southern and eastern regions of Yemen in an effort to expand a safe haven and strengthen forces, U.S. officials familiar with the situation tell Fox News.
The officials described the threat to the U.S. as consistent and persistent.
“We work on the assumption that (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) is coming after America every day,” the officials said. These are “extremists who joined a violent death cult. Their goal is to martyr themselves.”
They also said Al Qaeda has been able to leverage the Arab Spring movement in which Arab citizens revolted against governments in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, making sizeable gains since March of 2011.
U.S. officials say there is now a significant presence in six Yemen provinces, centered around Abyan in the south and compared to three provinces a year ago.
In recent weeks, the Yemeni military has been able to bring the group’s expansion to a temporary halt. U.S. officials described this development as positive news.
The officials also said Saudi-born Ibrahim al-Asiri is the top bomb technician and that he is actively training replacements. They said the training is to avoid “a single point of failure” should he be taken out.
Fox News was told that four significant plots, including two targeting the U.S. airline and cargo industry, were developed in the group’s safe haven. Read the rest of this entry »