DECEMBER 10, 2010
The scandal-plagued federal agency that let terrorists on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List keep their pilot license has no clue who owns more than 100,000 of the nation’s airplanes, creating a national security threat of epic proportions.
In fact, officials at the notoriously inept Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) actually admit that they fear the “gap” could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers. The agency in charge of aviation safety is missing key information on more than one-third of the country’s 357,000 private and commercial planes, even though federal law requires all U.S. aircrafts to be registered with the FAA and carry the registration certificate on board.
The crisis has been building for decades, according to the national news agency that broke the daunting story this week. It says that the FAA’s records are in such disarray that the agency worries criminals and terrorists could purchase planes without the government’s knowledge. Registration numbers could also be fraudulently used to evade new computer systems that track suspicious flights, which has already happened.
The deficient record keeping has allowed drug traffickers to use phony U.S. registration numbers and led police on wild goose chases where the wrong plane gets raided in the course of an investigation. The FAA claims the problem should be largely solved in about three years by implementing a registration process similar to the one in effect for automobiles.
This sort of incompetence it par for the course for the FAA, which has come under fire for its many gaffes in the last few years. Last summer a major newspaper reported that at least six men suspected or convicted of terrorism—including two on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List—were allowed to keep their aviation license.
Among them was a Libyan sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison by a Scottish court for the 1980s bombing of an American airliner, two men (Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhima) wanted by the FBI for the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing, an Iranian convicted of trying to ship jet fighter parts to Iran and a Lebanese living in Michigan who was convicted for trying to provide military equipment to the Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah.
Also last year, a
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