Visas for terrorist pilots surface

VENICE, Fla., March 12 (UPI) -- Student visas for the two pilots who steered jetliners into the two World Trade Center towers Sept. 11 arrived by mail at their flight school in Venice, Fla., exactly six months after the attacks, the school's owner said Tuesday.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service called it an embarrassment. Rudy Dekker of Huffman Aviation of Venice, Fla., said it showed his school had gone through the proper steps and was not to blame for the tragedy.


Huffman Aviation applied for the visas for its two students Aug. 29, 2000. The INS approved the visa for Mohamed Atta on July 17, 2001, and the one for Marwan al Shehhi Aug. 9, 2001.

The visas were mailed March 5, 2002, and arrived Monday.

"They (the INS) knew, apparently in July, that they were here," Dekkers said. "We did it right. Until now, I could never prove my point that we did everything we were supposed to."

The INS pointed to a backlog of applications that has existed for years.

"I think it is certainly embarrassing that the letters show up at this late date," spokesman Russ Bergeron said. "It does serve to illustrate what we have been saying since 1995 -- that the current system for collecting information and tracking foreign students is antiquated, outdated, inaccurate and untimely."


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