SAN DIEGO -
Eleven years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks, one of the key security breaches that allowed it to succeed still exists, according to a new report.
According to the Government Accountability Office's report, contrary to current regulations, foreign nationals are being trained to fly at some American flight schools with no background checks, including in San Diego.
The report to Congress says between January 2006 and September 2011, more than 25,000 foreign pilots didn't have a proper background check.
During a congressional hearing in July, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) questioned the author of the GAO report who admitted the problem still exists.
"Isn't it true that based on your report, the TSA can't assure the American people that terrorists aren't in this country learning how to fly airplanes, yes or no?" Rogers asked.
"At this time, no," was the response.
According to the GAO's report to Congress, "TSA has not ensured that all foreign nationals seeking flight training in the United States have been vetted … foreign nationals obtaining flight training with the intent to do harm...could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft ..."
"National security is at risk here," San Diego County Supervisor Diane Jacob said. "Our federal government is allowing the breeding of a problem that should have been stopped a long time ago."
Jacob represents the East County and oversees airports in the unincorporated portions of San Diego County.
She said she was especially concerned because just 12 years ago, two of the 9/11 hijackers took flight classes in San Diego at Montgomery Field.
The 10News I-Team investigated 19 flight schools in the county. According to the Transportation Security Administration, only six of those schools are authorized to teach foreign students to fly. Of the 12 remaining schools not authorized to teach foreign flight students, six admitted they have or do train foreign students.
The seven remaining flight schools did not respond to questions.
FAA officials told 10News the "TSA is responsible for vetting foreign nationals to receive flight training in the US. The FAA is not responsible for this."
The I-Team investigation also found the TSA was notified of the problem years ago. On October 5, 2005, FAA safety inspector Edward Blount wrote to a TSA director, saying, "A TSA policy and procedure … is fostering illegal flight training by foreign individuals."