The High-Flying Bin Ladens -- 12 Osama Kin Hold FAA Licenses

U.S. says no terror threat posed by bin Laden family's interest in aviation.

December 7, 2009, 4:58 PM

Dec. 8, 2009 — -- At least 12 members of Osama bin Laden's family currently hold Federal Aviation Administration pilot's licenses that make them eligible to fly aircraft anywhere in the United States, including three who received their licenses just this June, according to an analysis of FAA records provided to ABC News by a computer security firm, Safe Banking Systems.

One of the three who received his FAA licenses this year, Yeslam bin Laden, a half-brother of Osama who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, is named in a civil lawsuit brought by the families of 9/11 victims alleging he helped to finance Osama's al-Qaeda network as it started up in the 1990s in Yemen and the Sudan.

Yeslam disputes the allegations in the lawsuit and, like the entire family, has repudiated Osama.

Still, lawyers for the 9/11 families question whether the FAA has done its job.

"Any ties to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda whatsoever, even remote familial ties, require the utmost scrutiny and skepticism," said Don Migliori, an attorney representing 9/11 families.

The FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) would not address the bin Laden family pilots specifically but said no current license holders are considered "potential terrorists to harm the flying public."

In 2006, U.S. officials did revoke the license of one bin Laden half-brother, Bakr bin Laden, because of "security concerns," an FAA official told Bakr was also named in the 9/11 victims' lawsuit.

Stephen Brogan, a lawyer for Bakr bin Laden, said in a statement to ABC News there was "no basis" for revoking Bakr's FAA license and called it a "reflexive bureaucratic response based solely on the fact that Bakr is half brother to OBL."

The lawyer said "the U.S. military has continued to work with the family companies run by Bakr."

TSA Vetting Millions Holding Pilot's Licenses

After 9/11, the TSA was charged with vetting the approximately four million people who hold a FAA pilot's license of any kind.

A TSA spokesperson, Lauren Gaches, said the agency completed a comprehensive review of the pilots' list this summer by matching it with the FBI's terrorist screening database.

"TSA now conducts the name matching process for these nearly four million records on a daily basis," said Gaches.

Security experts say the TSA's job is complicated by the fact that the FAA aviation database does not contain vital information such as addresses and dates of birth, and is rife with misspelled names. For example, bin Laden is spelled several different ways in the FAA records, including "Binladin," "Ben Laden," and "Benladen."

"The many different spellings of bin Laden in the data make it impossible to determine exactly who has a license," said Mark Schiffer of Safe Banking systems, a computer security firm that analyzed the FAA records.

"The information is so thoroughly compromised that any vetting system built on it is unreliable," said Schiffer.

According to the FAA records, the bin Laden family members who currently hold FAA licenses include:

Yeslam bin Laden, the half brother of Osama who lives in Geneva and runs the investment arm of the family business, the Saudi Binladin Group, SBG. His FAA license was issued just this year in June 2009, making it possible for him to fly his own Lear jet.

Omar bin Laden, a half-brother of Osama who is on the board of directors of SBG. He has held his FAA private pilot license since 1977.

Tarek bin Laden, a half-brother of Osama who is also on the board of the SBG firm. He was licensed in June 1985.

Carmen bin Laden, an ex-wife of Yeslam bin Laden, who lives in Switzerland. Her license was issued in July 1976.

Abdul Aziz bin Laden, a half-brother of bin Laden who has held a commercial pilot's license since October, 1978.

Abdullah bin Laden, an Osama half-brother who received a commercial pilot's license in June, 2009.

Randa bin Laden, a half-sister of Osama who received her private pilot's license in October 1978.

Ghalib bin Laden, a half-brother of Osama who has held a FAA commercial pilot's license since March 1991.

Nawaf bin Laden, a nephew of Osama, who received a commercial pilot's license from the FAA in September 1994. He is the son of Bakr bin Laden, whose FAA license was revoked for "security concerns."

Najiah bin Laden, a half-sister of Osama who formerly lived in Los Angeles. She holds a private pilot's license, first issued in August, 1993.

Shafig bin Laden, a half-brother of Osama who received a student pilot's license in 1995.

Khalil bin Laden, a half brother of Osama who lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and who received his student pilot's license this June.

The bin Laden Family's Affinity For Flying

The bin Laden family has a long and checkered history with aviation going back to the death of family patriarch Mohammed bin Laden, who was killed in 1967 when his Beechcraft plane crashed near Usran, Saudi Arabia after trying to land on a mountain airstrip near a construction site.

After Mohammed's death one of his eldest sons, Salem bin Laden, took over the family construction business and empire. Salem bin Laden incorporated his own aviation firm in Texas, bin Laden Aviation, and obtained a U.S. commercial pilot's license in August of 1986. However, like his father, Salem bin Laden died in a plane crash, when the ultra-light plane he was piloting drifted into electric power lines outside of San Antonio, Texas in 1988.

Of course, Mohammed bin Laden's 17th child, Osama, would become notorious for the plot to use hijacked jets to launch an attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001.

On a videotape discovered by U.S. forces, bin Laden claimed he knew all along the World Trade Center towers "would collapse."

Eric Longabardi is an award-winning producer and investigative journalist who is a frequent contributor to the Blotter,'s investigative page.

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