When it comes to soldiers, breast-feeding moms, toddlers and grannies, the Transportation Security Administration is not just hands-on, it's hands-all-over. But when it comes to illegal alien pilot trainees, our homeland security bureaucracy's policy is still stuck in pre-9/11 mode: Hands off, blinders on.
This week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on the airline security agency's "process for ensuring (that) foreign flight students do not pose a security risk." In short, there isn't much of a "process" at all when it comes to checking the immigration status of flight school students. While the GAO report may be new, the documented lapses are part of the same old, same old refusal to profile foreign flight risks for fear of offending and inconveniencing politically correct special interests.
In November 2010, my column spotlighted a shady flight school outside Boston that had provided single-engine pilot lessons to more than two dozen illegal immigrants from Brazil. Clear counter-terror rules banned illegal aliens from enrolling in U.S. flight schools. Clear counter-terror regulations required TSA to run foreign flight students' names against a plethora of terrorism, criminal and immigration databases. Yet dozens of these illegal alien students eluded our homeland security radar screen.
What's changed since that illegal alien flight school first came to light? The new GAO audit, first reported on by CNSNews.com on Wednesday, disclosed fresh details about the Boston area flight school racket:
-- "Eight of the 25 foreign nationals who received approval by TSA to begin flight training were in 'entry without inspection' status, meaning they had entered the country illegally. Three of these had obtained FAA airman certificates: Two held FAA private pilot certificates, and one held an FAA commercial pilot certificate."
-- "Seventeen of the 25 foreign nationals who received approval by the TSA to begin flight training were in 'overstay' status, meaning they had overstayed their authorized period of admission into the United States."
-- "In addition, the flight school owner held two FAA airman certificates. Specifically, he was a certified Airline Transport Pilot (cargo pilot) and a Certified Flight Instructor. However, he had never received a TSA security threat assessment or been approved by TSA to obtain flight training."
The GAO report pointed out that over the past two years, TSA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security have supposedly been working on a pilot program to vet names of foreign students against immigration databases -- "but have not specified desired outcomes and time frames, or assigned individuals with responsibility for fully instituting the program."
The Obama administration promises to have a "plan" in place by December 2012 to "assess" the legal status of foreign pilot trainees. Meantime, election-year amnesty and intransigent apathy reign.
For more than decade, I've reported on the failure of the federal government to build a comprehensive foreign visitor entry-exit tracking system. Visa overstayers constitute 40 percent of the entire illegal alien population -- and have been major beneficiaries of both Bush and Obama illegal alien waiver programs and deportation freezes.
On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last year, GOP House Homeland Security Chairwoman Candice Miller reported on the federal backlog of more than 750,000 unvetted visa overstay records: "If we are serious about controlling who comes into the nation and preventing another 9/11 attack, we need to get serious about an exit program," she testified. "The (Department of Homeland Security) has yet to articulate a plan to move forward with a comprehensive exit plan in the air environment or elsewhere."
Open-borders lobbyists, the travel industry, civil-rights absolutists and ethnic-grievance groups have lobbied hard to stymie full implementation of coordinated databases to identify, locate and remove illegal overstayers. The systemic, bipartisan refusal to crack down on short-term tourist, business and student visa holders is a clear and present security danger.
Don't take my word for it.
In 2010, President Obama's own Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner testified before Congress: "Overstays perpetuate the illegal immigration problem by using the visa process to break the law to remain in the United States. Moreover, some overstays represent a very real national security risk to the nation."
Need a reminder? The Nationwide Visa Overstayers Club includes dozens of jihadists, including Mohamed Atta and four other 9/11 hijackers; 1997 New York subway bomber Lafi Khalil; four of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; 1993 New York landmark-bombing conspirator Fadil Abdelgani; convicted Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad; and U.S. Capitol bomb plotter Amine El Khalifi, whose visa expired in 1999 and escaped homeland security notice for 12 years before he was arrested this February just blocks from the Capitol building donning what he thought was a suicide bomb vest.
For the willfully dense: The salient homeland security point here isn't that every overstayer is a jihadi. The point is that the nation's massive, untouched illegal alien overstayer population allows nefarious malefactors from all over the world to blend in and operate with impunity.
Evil never rests. Washington bureaucrats, on the other, are engaged in an endless, reckless game of Kick the Can.