U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) in a letter to Administrator of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) John Pistole today expressed concerns for a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) citing problems in making certain that applicants to the Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) are not a risk to national security and whether they are legal residents. In the letter, Inhofe asked the TSA to disclose how these oversights were allowed and what steps have been taken to address the GAO's findings.
"More than a decade after the Sept 11th attacks, it is unbelievable the very oversights that led in part to that tragic day are apparently still being committed," said Inhofe. "That the GAO cannot guarantee the TSA is performing a duty most Americans would find essential to our national security is extremely alarming."
"One problem is that foreign nationals are not successfully vetted against the Terrorist Screening Database prior to receiving flight training and receiving an FAA airman certificate," wrote Inhofe in the letter. "This oversight means that individuals wishing to harm the United States may obtain flight training and an airman certificate without an administrator ever knowing that individual poses a danger to the public. A second problem is that TSA's screening does not include any steps to discover whether an applicant legally entered the United States."
The GAO's report, "Weaknesses Exist in TSA's Process for Ensuring Foreign Flight Students Do Not Poses a Security Threat," was released on July 18, 2012. The report listed an instance where a Boston area flight instructor was in the country illegally and had never received a TSA security threat assessment. He also had 25 illegal immigrants enrolled in his flighttraining program.
On the same day as the report's release, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, chaired by Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL), held a hearing on whether American flight schools could be unknowingly training terrorists. GAO's director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Stephen Lord, testified that based on the GAO's report, the TSA cannot guarantee foreign terrorist are not currently learning how to fly airplanes.