Immigration and Naturalization Service's Contacts With Two September 11 Terrorists   [open pdf - 2MB]

Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi were 2 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked and crashed 4 airplanes on September 11, 2001, resulting in the deaths of over 3,000 individuals, the complete destruction of the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, and extensive damage to the Pentagon. In the spring of 2000, both had entered the United States legally using visitor visas, and in September 2000 had requested that the INS change their status from that of "visitor" to that of "vocational student" so they could attend the flight training school. We found that the contractor handled these forms consistently with its handling of other I-20 forms and its interpretation of the requirements of its contract with the INS. The evidence suggests, however, that the contract was written so that the I-20 forms would be returned to the schools within 30 days, and we criticize the INS for failing to monitor adequately the requirements and performance of the contract. To date, the INS has not formulated any concrete plans for conducting or requiring verifications of the accuracy of the data that the schools enter into SEVIS. For example, the INS now requires adjudicators to check all I-539 change of status applications against certain lookout databases before rendering a final decision. Recommendations: At the end of the report, we make 24 systemic recommendations concerning various aspects of the INS's foreign student program that were implicated by our review of the INS's contacts with Atta and Alshehhi and our evaluation of the INS's tracking of foreign students.

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