WASHINGTON – In just the past two days, 14 Syrian men entered the U.S. through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on student visas to attend flight schools at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport, WorldNetDaily has learned exclusively.
The State Department lists Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The Syrian men, whose M-1 visas expire April 2002, flew in from London aboard two British Airways flights, with one group of seven arriving Sunday and the rest on Monday – the day before the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its post-attack ban on novice pilots flying private planes solo in airspace around major metropolitan areas.
“Seems that they knew the private plane ban was going to be lifted today,” said an Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector at DFW.
After the second wave of Syrians deplaned, INS inspectors called the FBI, which asked inspectors to photocopy their passports and other papers, according to the INS source.
The men, all clean-shaven and in their mid-20s, were
not detained, however, and the FBI did not interview
them – although agents have recently questioned Middle
Eastern students enrolled at Meacham field schools.
The Syrians told immigration inspectors they came here
to train to be pilots for their country’s national
airline, and were enrolled at Delta-Qualiflight
Delta is one of four Meacham field schools run by
Middle Eastern men, airport records reviewed by
WorldNetDaily show. There are eight schools in all.
Delta-Qualiflight Aeronautics, owned by Khaled Miloud, enrolls the largest share of Middle Eastern students, according to airport sources, who say Arabic is the main language spoken at the school. Miloud did not return phone calls.
The schools, using Meacham field’s two runways and flight simulators, train students to fly primarily single and twin-engine aircraft.
The FBI would not comment on the Syrian students. But a spokeswoman for the bureau’s Dallas office said agents have been “working very closely” with INS inspectors at DFW to monitor Middle Easterners coming into the U.S. on flight-school visas.
“We’re getting thousands of leads here at the Dallas division, many of them concerning Middle Eastern individuals coming in and going to flight schools,” Dallas FBI spokeswoman Lori Bailey told WorldNetDaily. “We have several flight schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”
INS inspectors at DFW have detained “numerous” Middle Easterners who are in violation of immigration laws, she said. But the FBI has not arrested any in connection with the PENTTBOM investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
After the 9-11 hijackings, FBI agents tracked a suspicious Algerian man to another Meacham field flight school called American Flyers, WorldNetDaily has learned.
According to a spokesman for American Flyers, agents questioned the man at his Fort Worth-area apartment.
“He was very cooperative,” he said, “and they gave him their blessing” to attend the school.
The American Flyers manager says that despite “some obvious bad apples,” most of the Middle Eastern students who train at American flight schools are “all right.”
“I get a lot of people asking me lately, ‘Hey, how come you’re still letting people from the Middle East train to fly at your school?'” he said. “But I tell them that before they ever get here, their applications are approved by the State Department.”
Indeed, foreigners applying for a student visa have to fill out a federal application, called an I-20 form, and submit it to the American embassy in their country for approval. The form includes the name and address of the U.S. flight school.
“I don’t know why the feds are surprised” by the number of Middle Easterners enrolled at U.S. flight schools, he said. “The information is available in advance. They know these guys’ names and where they’re enrolled long before they arrive here.”
A State Department spokesman says the Bush administration has no plans to stop issuing visas to flight-school applicants from the Middle East.
“The Department of State has changed no laws and no regulations from what was in effect Sept. 10,” spokesman Chris Lamora told WorldNetDaily.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has not told the INS to turn back or detain Middle Easterners entering the U.S. with flight-school visas – not even those from countries that sponsor terrorism, such as Syria.
Others on State’s terror watch list include Iraq, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Libya and Sudan.
On Sunday, Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant warned that another “storm of airplanes” will hit America.
“Thousands of young Muslims want to die [as martyrs], and the storm of airplanes will not stop,” said al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith in a propaganda video broadcast on Arab television.
“The storm of airplanes will not be calmed,” he said, “if it is God’s will.”