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Americans on no-fly list are not banned from learning how to fly in the US


U.S. citizens who are on the government’s list of people banned from flying because they’re considered terror threats are not prevented from learning how to fly in schools around the country, according to government regulations.

Such a person may have to drive across the country to learn how to fly a plane because he or she would likely be stopped from boarding a commercial airliner. But the security checks put in place after the 9/11 attacks will not keep the person from receiving pilot training.

The security loophole was raised during a hearing Wednesday to examine the Homeland Security Department’s programs to screen foreigners who want to attend flight schools in the U.S. Some of the 9/11 hijackers were able to learn to fly in the U.S. while living in the country illegally.

The government put in several more layers of security after the attacks, and foreigners now receive criminal background checks and are screened against terror watch lists before they are allowed to begin training. U.S. citizens, however, are not subject to the same scrutiny.

“I was stunned. That just caught me completely off guard, and I’m pretty angry about it,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said after the hearing. “Everybody should be concerned.”

The government has other screening requirements for someone to receive a pilot’s license or other certificate to fly a plane which include criminal background checks and screening against terror watch lists. But Rogers said if the government doesn’t want someone on an airplane because he or she is a terror threat, there’s no reason why that person should be allowed to learn how to fly.

There are about 500 U.S. citizens on the no-fly list, according to an intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive numbers.

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