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Arizona flight students still eyed by FBI

By MARK BENJAMIN, UPI Congressional Bureau Chief   |   May 14, 2002 at 10:13 AM
WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- Eight months after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FBI is still investigating pilots who wanted to learn flying skills in Arizona but were not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, FBI officials said.

The FBI is investigating an undisclosed number of flight students who were identified in a now-infamous July 2001 memorandum from the FBI's Phoenix Field Office that recommended the FBI monitor U.S. flight schools and obtain visa information on pilots.

FBI officials said the individuals listed on the memorandum were not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But "these individuals are of interest to the FBI," agency spokesman Bill Carter said. Carter would not say whether the individuals were in custody for any reason or still at large.

House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., would not comment on Arizona flight students in particular, but said the Department of Justice's effort to look into the potential risks of flight students across the country is still "terribly disorganized" eight months after the attacks. Mica said he might chair hearings on this issue.

"We have a problem with the work by the Department of Justice," Mica said. "They do not have a system in place to deal with this."

In a hearing last week, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pounded FBI Director Robert Mueller for the FBI's apparent failure to act on the Phoenix memo. The month before the attacks, the FBI also arrested Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged "20th hijacker," for visa violations after he raised the suspicions of an instructor at a flight school in Eagan, Minn.

Mueller told the panel last week that some pilots from Arizona might still be under FBI investigation.

"I think it is important ... to understand the individuals who are mentioned in that letter -- and there were a number -- were and perhaps some may continue to be under investigation."

A number of the Sept. 11 hijackers have been associated with flight training in Arizona, including Hani Hanjour, who trained at the now-defunct JetTech flight school in Phoenix in 2001. Another hijacker, Ziad Samir, may have trained on an Arizona Flight simulator in the months before the attacks.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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