OKC FBI pilot observed Middle Eastern men taking flight lessons

Thursday, May 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An FBI pilot in Oklahoma City warned four years ago that a number of Middle Eastern males were getting flight training in Oklahoma and that it may be related to planned terrorist activity.

The FBI on Wednesday released a memo dated May 18, 1998, which was written by an unidentified agent who interviewed the chief pilot in the FBI's Oklahoma City division.

The pilot told the agent of ``large numbers of Middle Eastern males receiving flight training at Oklahoma airports in recent months.''

The one-page memo, titled ``WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION,'' also said that the pilot ``speculates that light planes would be an ideal means of spreading chemical or biological agents.''

The document has been given to a congressional Joint Intelligence Committee that is investigating what might have been done to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The names of the pilot and the agent who wrote the memo are blacked out on the document. The memo went only to the agent's supervisor.

Richard Marquise, the FBI's special agent in charge in Oklahoma City, declined to identify the pilot or the agent, but said the pilot based his observation mostly on what he heard on his plane radio.

``He said, 'You could tell. You could tell they were getting flight instruction. It was all over the state,''' Marquise told The Daily Oklahoman.

``This whole issue has to do with all these little dots. ... If there was a dot in Oklahoma and a dot in Phoenix and a dot someplace else, how come those dots weren't connected?'' said Marquise, who took over the Oklahoma City office in 1999.

Terrorism defendant Zacarias Moussaoui took flight lessons at the Airman Flight School in Norman last year.

Marquise said he doesn't know if collecting the names of Middle Eastern flight students back then would have helped.

``Would it have prevented 9/ 11? I don't know,'' he said. ``We all wish we could have.''