Terrorists Retain Pilot’s Licenses Despite Being on F.B.I. Wanted list

August 19, 2009

(ChattahBox)—According to the New York Times, a disturbing security breach was recently uncovered that allows individuals charged or convicted of acts of domestic terrorism to retain their pilot’s licenses. Three federal agencies tasked with protecting the public safety; the F.A.A., Transportation Security Administration and the F.B.I. are apparently operating in a vacuum and not cross-referencing lists of individuals posing a security threat to the nation.

The vetting problem was discovered when a database processing company, Safe Banking Systems released the names of six people with F.A.A. licenses who had been charged or convicted of acts of terrorism or were found to pose a threat.

Most notably, Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 31 was convicted of arson, destroying an electric tower and other acts of domestic terrorism in January 2006, in Eugene, Ore. Dibee was placed on the F.B.I. wanted list with a $50,000 reward offered for information leading to his capture. He is believed to have fled the country to Syria. Nevertheless, Dibee still owns an aircraft and was licensed to fly by the F.A.A, until his license was revoked in June, after the Safe Banking Systems list became public.

Dibee also was discovered posting an Internet ad to sell his plane for $39,000. The convicted terrorist was able to keep his pilot’s license, because the Transportation Security Administration did not check with the publicly available F.B.I. wanted list and compare it to the publicly available F.A.A. list.

Last week lawmakers from the Senate Commerce Committee and its aviation subcommittee sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration and the F. A. A. demanding an explanation for the security lapse. The two agencies agreed to a 90-day plan to improve their vetting performance in cross-checking public lists.

The six terrorists listed on the Safe Banking Systems released in June, had their pilot’s licenses revoked by the F.A.A. The Transportation Security Administration admitted that it did not regularly check the F.B.I. wanted list, and instead it used “a more robust list that incorporates the F.B.I. list, as well as many other lists.” But that procedure obviously has some flaws.

One of the terrorists on the list was Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi, who was convicted of blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Agency officials say that oftentimes, Arabic names are translated differently, causing confusion. For example, his name was listed by the F.A.A. as Abdelbaset Ali Elmegrahi.

But that excuse doesn’t explain the clear-cut case of Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, whose name appeared the same on both the F.B.I. wanted poster and the F.A.A. list.

The Transportation Security Administration would not comment on specific cases, because “ongoing investigations” may be compromised.


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