A report by a United States Government's watchdog has revealed that some foreign flight students are still not subjected to terror database screening until after they've completed their pilot training.
"Foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm, such as three of the pilots and leaders of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting," ABC quoted the Government Accountability Office, as stating in its report.
In the September 11 attacks, 19 foreign nationals, who hijacked four commercial airliners and used the planes as weapons to hit the World Trade Center [ Images ] in New York and the Pentagon [ Images ] in the nation's capital, attended more than a dozen American flight schools in the weeks before the attacks to learn how to fly the jets.
After the attacks, the Transportation Security Administration established the Alien Flight Student Program, which is designed to prevent flight schools regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration from 'providing flight training to a foreign student unless the secretary of Homeland Security first determines that the student does not pose a threat to aviation or national security'.
However, the new GAO report claimed that the AFSP database is woefully behind and some of the more than 25,000 foreign nationals who were in the FAA airmen registry were not found in the AFSP database, 'indicating that these individuals had not applied to the AFSP or been vetted by the TSA before taking flight training and receiving an FAA airman certificate'.
"It is disturbing to learn we could still be vulnerable to the same actions the 9/11 hijackers took over a decade ago," said Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
The GAO report is the centerpiece of the subcommittee's hearing, but the problem has apparently persisted despite being publicly exposed years before, the report cited.