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."