Leah Barkoukis

Under the guise of security, TSA can grope passengers all they want, expose people to radiation, test their beverages at the gate – I could go on. You know what else they got away with? According to the GAO, TSA approved 25 illegal aliens for flight training at a Mass. flight school that was – get this – owned by another illegal alien. Eight were in the country illegally while the 17 others overstayed their visas. Six of these individuals received their pilot’s license.

The discovery wasn’t even made by the feds, but by local law enforcement that pulled over the owner for a traffic violation, which ultimately lead to the finding.

Rep. Mike Rogers (chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security): Mr. Lord, isn’t it true that based on your report the transportation security administration cannot ensure the American people that foreign terrorists are not in this country learning how to fly airplanes? Yes or no.

Stephen Lord (GAO's director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues): At this time, at this time – no.

Rep. Mike Rogers: That’s what I thought.

After September 11, security measures were put in place like the establishment of TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program, which was a screening process for foreign nationals taking flight lessons. DHS then had to give the green light before they could attend an FAA-approved flight school and receive a pilot’s license. The glitch in the system noted by the GAO, however, is that the program doesn’t check for immigration status.

A federal flight deck officer program was also implemented after 9/11, which allowed pilots to carry in the cockpit as an added layer of security – but of course, the Obama administration is trying to axe that one.  

Anyway, between January 2006 and September 2011, an “unspecified number” of the 25,599 foreigners seeking a pilot’s license weren’t vetted by the TSA, according to Lord. The owner of the Mass. flight school received two FAA certificates despite never having gone through TSA’s security threat assessment or receiving clearance to obtain flight training.  

This oversight or weakness in the system – whatever you want to call it, is chilling, egregious and insulting to the American people considering that Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers took flight lessons in the U.S. to prepare for that fateful day when nearly 3,000 people were killed. Apparently that wasn’t enough to get security measures right. 


Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Managing Editor at Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography