FBI still careless on flight schools Arab student pilots, some from terror states, continued to stream into U.S. after Sept. 11 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Posted: May 22, 2002 1:00 a.m. Eastern By Paul Sperry Â© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com WASHINGTON â€“ Even after Sept. 11, the FBI let young Middle-Eastern men from terrorist states train at U.S. flight schools â€“ some in President Bush's home state â€“ much to the dismay of immigration inspectors who wanted to bar them. The FBI is reeling from the recent embarrassing disclosure that a field agent in Phoenix warned headquarters a full two months before the attacks that al-Qaida operatives could be training at U.S. flight schools. The FBI says it didn't act on the so-called "Phoenix memo" because there was no information indicating terrorists tied to Osama bin Laden might turn hijacked airplanes into missiles. The classified memo reportedly didn't even make it to the desk of Attorney General John Ashcroft or Bush. But what has the FBI done since Sept. 11 to stop a potential new crop of terrorists from training at flight schools with similar suicide missions in mind? Apparently not much. Several weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, groups of foreign nationals from Arab countries that sponsor and harbor terrorists were allowed to waltz into a major international airport on visas to attend flight schools. The FBI, despite concerns expressed by Immigration and Naturalization Service agents, chose not to detain them even for questioning. They were allowed to enroll â€“ "business as usual, as if Sept. 11 never happened," one INS agent said. In October, as WorldNetDaily first reported, 14 Syrian men entered the U.S. through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to attend flight schools in Fort Worth. Syria is one of the seven countries on the State Department's terrorist blacklist. Planes from the Syrian national airline are banned from entering the U.S. The men further alarmed airport INS officers because they arrived in two groups. They were clean-shaven and in their mid-20s, as were most of the 19 hijackers, which also raised suspicions. Another red flag: They were enrolled in a flight school run by a wealthy Middle Eastern man who lives in Arlington, Texas. In fact, half the flight schools at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport are run by Middle Eastern men, according to airport records reviewed by WorldNetDaily. A flight-school instructor said the school that accepted the Syrians, Delta-Qualiflight Aeronautics, allowed students to speak in Arabic, even though the Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots speak English, the universal language of aviation around the world. The FBI's Dallas office has received "thousands of leads" about suspicious Middle Eastern men at area flight schools, a spokeswoman said in an interview. And agents have investigated some of them. One government witness in the embassy-bombing trial, Essam al-Ridi, testified that he had attended flight school in Fort Worth. The Egyptian also said he bought bin Laden a used Saber-40 aircraft for $210,000 and flew it to him from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Meacham field in Fort Worth is one of the busiest civil-aviation airports in the country. Yet "ownership of, and express responsibility for, maintenance and operation of essential runway facilities has yet to be transferred to the FAA â€“ years after the facilities were constructed and officially commissioned," said a former FAA employee at the agency's southwest region headquarters in Fort Worth. The FBI was criticized in the Dallas media for not turning back, or at least detaining and investigating, the Syrian student pilots. At the time, federal authorities said the flight students entered the country legally under valid visas and did not show up on any terrorist watch lists. Of course, none of the 19 hijackers did, either. The FBI did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment for this story.