Skip to comments.TSA lapses raise doubts on foreign pilot screenings
Posted on 11/22/2011 5:33:00 PM PST by La Lydia
ALEXANDRIA Holiday travelers may receive enhanced pat-downs at the hands of Transportation Security Administration agents in the next few days, but TSA failed to enforce a key foreign pilot screening process that could have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For several months in 2010, TSA and Department of Defense contractor Mantech International Corp. failed to enforce the Alien Flight Student Program, which performs threat assessments and background checks on more than 38,000 non-citizens learning to fly every year.
"This hasn't come back to bite us yet, but it only has to be one time," said one source with direct knowledge of the program.
Another said of the broken screening program, "it was appalling. (Mantech was) hemorrhaging staff like crazy, and it kept getting worse and worse."
That assessment was confirmed by other sources, all requesting anonymity because they feared their ties to the defense industry and Department of Homeland Security could be jeopardized. They did say they believe all applicants eventually were screened.
Between 2004, when TSA acquired the program from the U.S. Department of Justice, and 2010, the program employed 15 to 35 contractors, who processed the background checks. In 2010, however, budget cuts and contracting complications led to layoffs. As few as 10 people were left to process thousands of applications by the time the contract expired last fall.
"It's simple math. The turnaround time was not long enough to run all the information for an individual," another source familiar with the operation said. "Some students began training before the congressional mandate (for background checks) was complete."
The Alien Flight Student Program was developed in the wake of 9/11, when 19 fundamentalist Islamic terrorists crashed commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth plane, United 93, was thought to be headed for the Capitol when passengers tried to retake it. Hijackers crashed the plane in a Shanksville, Pa., field. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.
Nine of the hijackers, including all four pilots, attended flight schools in the United States.
To prevent future attacks, Congress ordered the Department of Justice to begin screening foreign-born flight school candidates for criminal backgrounds, using online applications and fingerprinting. TSA took over the program in 2004 and contracted out the approval process to Mantech.
Any non-U.S. citizen hoping to pilot, or even hop in a flight simulator, must submit identifying information, including country of origin and date of birth, as well as a recent photograph and multiple sets of fingerprints. Those are then screened against a number of criminal and Homeland Security databases.
TSA has performed background checks on about 230,000 foreign flight students since 2005, which amounts to nearly 77,000 checks per year. TSA assumes each student will undergo two applications per year. Less than 200 people have been rejected from the program, according to TSA records. "They could do 80 per day, maybe 130 if there were no mistakes" on the applications, the first source said. "At the end of Mantech's contract, (TSA and Mantech) were assigning 200 cases a day that's not possible."
The large caseload is significant because the congressional requirement includes a timeline for processing claims.
New candidates applying to fly aircraft larger than 12,500 pounds a passenger aircraft by industry standards must wait 30 days after submitting all application materials, including fingerprints, to begin flight training. A student learning to fly aircraft below that threshold, however, can begin training immediately after TSA has received materials....
Don’t worry, they’re not real pilots......they don’t even know how to land an aircraft.....they only learned how to take off. What could go wrong?
Why hasn’t this absurdity been corrected? Why isn’t there an investigation? Instead of common sense solutions from our “government” that is in reality “us”. Instead it continues to disrupt average Americans and consider all of us as guilty perps first.
They don’t have time for those distractions. They are too busy mauling grandmas, attractive blondes and little kids.
The TSA has become just another welfare program for government union employees.
The TSA might not be George Bush’s biggest mistake but it’s right up there in the top five.