Aviation Security Should Be a Top Priority

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I was sent the extremely disturbing news report that appeared in the New York Times on the 28th of July, 2011 by Bruce DeCell whose son-in-law was one of the many killed by terrorists as a consequence of the attacks of September 11, 2001. (I would remind you, should you have somehow lost track of time that we are just about one month away from the 10 year anniversary of that horrific events that transpired on that date.)

The New York Times report was entitled:

“27 Deemed to Be Threats Held Aviation Licenses”

This news article was predicated upon a report issued by the Inspector General (Internal Affairs) that has oversight responsibility for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

Here is a link to the article:

www.nytimes.com

Here is a link to the Inspector General’s report:

http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_11-96_Jul11.pdf

The title of that report was:

“Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Vetting of Airmen Certificates and General Aviation Airport Access and Security Procedures”

Over the past ten years our nation has spent huge sums of money and we, the citizens of this nation, 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. These have been attributed to our nation’s “War on Terror.”

As a former Senior Special Agent of the INS who has conducted investigations into international terrorists and transnational criminals, whose tactics are all too often nearly indistinguishable from that employed by terrorists, I certainly understand the need for many of the 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 who is 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 to be found in the FAA’s supposed efforts to manage its Airman Registry. It is not that the potential that 27 terrorists or criminals holding pilots licenses is not a serious issue- let us 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!

Similarly, a news report issued by an online magazine, HS Today. US (Homeland Security Today) also managed to provide a title for its article that addressed that same IG report, that could not sound any more innocuous:

“TSA, FAA Could Use More Info to Expand Security Checks for Pilots”

It does not take much to realize that 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 that is touted by our “leaders” does not in any way, shape or form match the abysmal reality of the situation!

To say that the FAA could use more information in dealing with pilots license would be the same as the Captain on the Titanic announcing to the passengers, after the iceberg was struck by that ill-fated vessel, that the passengers might soon experience an increase in dampness!

I also want to highlight another point that is addressed in the excerpt I posted above- consider this sentence:

“T.S.A. may not identify U.S. citizens who have provided false biographic information to receive an airman certificate.”

The above noted quote addresses the issue of United States Citizens but in reality not only citizens of our nation may have pilot’s licenses that enable them to fly in the skies over our nation. Furthermore 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 who had entered the United States with a student visa. She subsequently entered into a sham marriage that ultimately enabled her to become a naturalized citizen who went on to become an FBI Special Agent and then left that job for a position with the CIA. Her deception was discovered when she accessed databases she had no authorization to access.

Additionally, consider the issue of aliens who make false claims to United States citizenship and acquire identity documents to support those false claims.

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 managed to acquire pilot’s licenses and are being prosecuted by the federal government. According to that news report, seven of those aliens were identified as being citizens of Venezuela.

I know nothing about these seven individuals but it is important to realize that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is certainly no ally of the United States!

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”

Here is a link to that news report:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/21/iran-boosts-qods-shock-troops-in-venezuela/

Here is the link to the report that the Pentagon provided to Congress on Tehran’s military that served as the predication for the news report:

http://www.pdfhost.net/index.php?Action=DownloadFile&id=fd4a61b6a2746dd12877065749ed557c

It would certainly not be beyond the realm of possibility for such soldiers to be provided with actual Venezuelan passports by the Venezuelan government, 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 you 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 could most likely walk into one of 19,000 general aviation airports in the United States, 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 or wacko 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 voiced by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV about how the FAA has failed to properly identify many pilots who hold licenses that enable them to fly freely around our country. Consider that paragraph as it appears in the article:

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 about verifying the identity of those who hold pilot’s licenses, indeed I share his concerns- however, he must consider how sweeping amnesty programs for illegal aliens would enable aliens to create brand new identities for themselves. He must also come to understand how “Sanctuary Cities” also enable illegal aliens and the criminals and terrorists among them, to embed themselves in such havens for foreign nationals whose 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 that 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 coloration 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!”

On June 22, 2007 the Washington Times published an Op-Ed piece I wrote in which I laid my grave concerns about the national security implications for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Here is a link to my article:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/jun/22/immigration-bill-a-no-go/

Approximately 5 years ago, I was called upon to provide 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, in my judgment do to our nation’s security (The concerns I articulated back then are every bit as relevant today):

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4127670560538123883&ei=FlKLSq-4LYLrlQentKnDCw&q=michael+cutle&hl=en&client=firefox-a

Title 8, United States Code section 212 is 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:

Here is a link to that section of law:

http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-1956.html

Please take the time to review the contents of this section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Among the categories of aliens who are supposed 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 so willing to ignore the immigration laws that, especially now, as we wage a “War on Terror” and a “War on Drugs” opposed to the enforcement of the one set of 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 when they run our nation’s borders, making it easier for them to make false claims to United States citizenship and enabling aliens who may be fugitives from justice in our country or other countries, to enter the United States without making their presence known enabling them to easily hide within our country.

A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!

If our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!

We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.

My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.

The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.

If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same. We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”

The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.

The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!

The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians. I implore you to get involved!

I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world. However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!

If our government’s failures to secure our nation’s borders and effectively enforce our immigration laws concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation!

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

Additionally- this summer, on Friday afternoons from 4:00 PM until 5:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time, I will be filling in for Tom Garcia as the host on The USA Talk Radio Network’s excellent radio show, “The American Hour.”

I hope you will be joining my co-host, Paula Lauzon Ostman and me, on Fridays this summer!

Here is the link for this program:

www.USARadioNetwork.com/tom.htm

TSA, FAA Could Use More Info to Expand Security Checks for Pilots, IG Says

Michael Cutler, a former Senior INS Investigator, an expert witness in more than a dozen Congressional Hearings is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and an advisor to the ‘911 Families for a Secure America.’ He writes about the nexus between immigration and national security.