by Michael Cutler, Family Security Matters: A recent New York Times article was extremely disturbing. The report was entitled: "27 Deemed to Be Threats Held Aviation Licenses". This news article was based on a report (pdf document) issued by the Inspector General (Internal Affairs) that has oversight responsibility for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
The article stated that that the FAA has no meaningful handle on those to whom that agency has issued pilots’ licenses.
Over the past ten years our nation has spent huge sums of money, and we have witnessed such an erosion of our expectations of privacy and a curtailment in our rights that the Fourth Amendment is truly a shadow of its former self. This has been attributed to our nation's "War on Terror."
As a former INS Senior Special Agent who has conducted investigations into international terrorists and transnational criminals whose tactics are nearly indistinguishable from those employed by terrorists, I certainly understand the need for many measures that have been taken. In preparing to board an airliner, passengers are often subjected to a search that is even more thorough than a search conducted by law enforcement officers when they arrest a suspect believed to have committed a felony.
However, it is utterly unfathomable that the FAA has no meaningful handle on those to whom that agency has issued pilots’ licenses.
The headline of the New York Times article downplayed the level of the incompetence in the FAA's efforts to manage its Airman Registry. It is not that the 27 terrorists/criminals holding pilots’ licenses is not a serious issue – let’s not forget that the devastating attacks of a decade ago were conducted by 19 terrorists - it is that there are, in reality, many thousands of licensed pilots, and the FAA cannot really be certain about their true identities.
At the same time, a news report issued by an online magazine, HS Today.US (Homeland Security Today) managed to provide an innocuous title for its article addressing that same IG report: "TSA, FAA Could Use More Info to Expand Security Checks for Pilots".
Yet the magnitude of the incompetence of the FAA is nothing short of insane - just consider this excerpt from the New York Times news report:
The new report, by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, found that the F.A.A. had Social Security numbers of only about 750,000 people out of the 1.3 million names in its Airmen Registry, and that among those for whom it had numbers, more than 15,000 of them did not match the Social Security database for name, sex or date of birth. By law, the F.A.A. cannot require a Social Security number, the report noted, and as a result, “T.S.A. may not identify U.S. citizens who have provided false biographic information to receive an airman certificate.”
Not all of the discrepancies represent a potential security threat; the report said that more extensive study over the past few years found that 8,000 of the license holders were dead.
The report offers no details about the 27 individuals whose certificates were canceled, but does indicate the poor state of federal records, almost a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks. An initial computer scan found about 29,000 certificates that matched names on the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, but further study found that 28,500 of the matches were invalid; 506 were turned over for closer scrutiny, yielding the 27 names.
The point is that the charade of national security touted by our "leaders" does not in any way match the abysmal reality of the situation.
I want to highlight another point addressed in the excerpt posted above:
T.S.A. may not identify U.S. citizens who have provided false biographic information to receive an airman certificate.
The above quote addresses the issue of US citizens but in reality not only citizens may have pilots’ licenses that enable them to fly over our nation. There have been many aliens who have succeeded in acquiring United States citizenship via fraud, including a woman, several years ago, who was a citizen of Lebanon and came to the United States on a student visa. She entered into a sham marriage that enabled her to become a naturalized citizen; she then went on to become an FBI Special Agent and then joined the CIA. Her deception was discovered when she accessed databases without authorization.
Additionally, consider the issue of aliens who make false claims of US citizenship and acquire identity documents to support those false claims. The list goes on.
I have also provided you, below, with another disturbing news report that appeared online today at the Federal Observer's website. The report detailed how nine illegal aliens allegedly acquired pilots’ licenses and are being prosecuted by the federal government. According to that news report, seven of those aliens were identified as citizens of Venezuela.
A recent Pentagon report noted that increasing numbers of Iranian Qods "Shock Troops" had been sent to Venezuela. The Washington Times published a report on April 21, 2010 about this disturbing and growing threat that was entitled: "Iran boosts Qods shock troops in Venezuela.
A Pentagon document (pdf) provided to Congress on Tehran's military served as the predication for the news report.
It would certainly not be beyond the realm of possibility for such soldiers to be provided with actual Venezuelan passports to enable them to move freely about Latin America and the United States without raising suspicions. This is the sort of thinking that our leaders must engage in to "connect the dots."
The HS Today article also made a point that should give serious "cause for pause".
Consider this unbelievable statement:
The IG report further observed that TSA does not issues security restrictions for roughly 19,000 US general aviation airports, except for those in the National Capital Region. As such, those airports do not require pilots to present their certificates at all before entering their facilities and flying away - unlike commercial airports where pilots undergo security screening.
Apparently anyone can walk into one of 19,000 general aviation airports in the UnitedStates, hop into an airplane and head for the "wild blue yonder!" While it would be nearly impossible to find a wide body jet in such an airport, there are many general aviation airports where multi-engine airplanes do land and take off, including business jets. Think of the potential damage such airplanes could do in the hands of a determined terrorist who may have lost a license for a variety of reasons but knows how to fly such an aircraft.
Meanwhile very young children and the elderly are being all but strip searched.
The final paragraph of the New York Times article reflects the concerns of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV about how the FAA has failed to properly identify pilots who hold licenses that enable them to fly freely around our country. Consider that paragraph:
John D. Rockefeller IV, one of the senators who requested the investigation, said Thursday that the report “shows that almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, the F.A.A. is still not doing enough to verify the identity of airman’s certificate holders and that some certificate holders have connections to terrorism.” Mr. Rockefeller, who is a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of an aviation subcommittee, said that the F.A.A. and Homeland Security were making progress, but that “issuing certificates to people who pose a threat to our aviation system is simply unacceptable.”
I certainly understand Senator Rockefeller's concerns, however, he must consider how sweeping amnesty programs for illegal aliens enable those aliens to create brand new identities. He must also come to understand how "Sanctuary Cities" enable illegal aliens, and the criminals and terrorists among them, to embed themselves in such havens where their true identities are unknown and unknowable.
Simply stated, you cannot have it both ways. Undocumented aliens are illegally present in our country and the fact they are "undocumented" means that they have no reliable, verifiable way of proving who they are. False identities serve as a camouflage for criminals and terrorists the same way that changes in color enable certain creatures to hide in plain sight, often among their intended victims.
This is why I have come to refer to Comprehensive Immigration Reform as the "Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act."
In June 22, 2007 the Washington Times published an Op-Ed piece I wrote in which I advanced my grave concerns about the national security implications for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Approximately 5 years ago, I provided testimony at a hearing called by the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on the national security implications of an amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens whose true identities, backgrounds, potential affiliation with criminal or terrorist organizations were unknown and unknowable. Here is a link to a video of a portion of that hearing in which I expressed my concerns about the profound harm such a program would do to our nation's security (the concerns I articulated back then are every bit as relevant today).
Title 8, United States Code section 212 is the section of law that enumerates the various categories of aliens who, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, are supposed to be prevented from entering the United States and are supposed to be removed if they are found here:
Among the categories of aliens to be kept out of the United States are aliens with dangerous communicable diseases, aliens who suffer serious mental illness and are prone to violence, aliens who are convicted felons, aliens who fugitives from justice in other countries, aliens who are human traffickers and drug smugglers, aliens who are war criminals and aliens who have committed human rights violations. Also aliens who are engaged in terrorism and espionage are among those who are, by law, supposed to be prevented from entering our country and are supposed to be removed if they manage to evade the Border Patrol and enter the United States.
At present it is estimated by the administration that more than 230 American cities are infested by members of the Mexican drug cartels. Still more cities are infested by other transnational gangs from Latin America, Russia, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and other parts of the world. Why on earth would politicians, who are supposed to look out for the best interests of our nation and our citizens, be so willing to ignore the immigration laws, especially now as we wage a "War on Terror" and a "War on Drugs", as opposed to enforcing those laws specifically designed to protect us?
Finally, aliens who evade the inspections process by running our nation's borders also do not create a record of their entry into our country, making it easier for them to make false claims to United States citizenship and enable aliens, who may be fugitives from justice in our country or others, to enter the United States without making their presence known.
A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Michael Cutler is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and a recognized authority who addresses the implications of immigration on national security and criminal justice.