- New evidence linking the owner of the Venice Florida
flight school which trained Mohamed Atta to the Central Intelligence Agency
surfaced earlier this month.
- The new evidence adds to existing indications that Mohamed
Atta and his terrorist cadre's flight training in this country was part
of a so-far unacknowledged U.S. government intelligence operation which
had ultimately tragic consequences for thousands of civilians on September
- Far from merely being negligent or asleep at the switch-the
thrust so far of allegations expected to be aired at joint Senate and House
Select Committee hearings next month-the accumulating evidence suggests
the CIA was not just aware of the thousands of Arab student pilots who
began pouring into this country several years ago to attend flight training,
but was running the operation, for still-unexplained reasons.
- During a controversy over the awarding of a bid for an
aviation maintenance facility in Lynchburg, Virginia, what had begun as
a purely local spat took on national importance when it unearthed connections
between Rudi Dekkers-the Dutch national whose Huffman Aviation trained
both of the pilots at the controls of the airliners which crashed into
the World Trade Center-and the CIA.
- "Good-by Magic Dutch Boy; Hello Jerry Falwell"
- The CIA's links to Dekkers surfaced when an unknown company
called Britannia Aviation was mysteriously awarded a five-year contract
to run a large regional maintenance facility at the Lynchburg Virginia
- At the time of the award virtually nothing was known
about Britannia except that the company worked out of a hangar at Rudi
Dekker's Huffman Aviation at the Venice, Florida airport.
- But when Britannia was chosen over a respected and successful
Lynchburg company boasting a multi-million dollar balance sheet and more
than 40 employees, aviation executives there began voicing concerns to
reporters at the local newspaper...
- "There was some sentiment that there might be something
suspicious about Britannia Aviation," stated business reporter Chris
Flores of the Lynchburg News-Advance. "There was a clear feeling that
nobody knew who these guys were, or where they were coming from."
- The suspicion deepened when it was discovered that Britannia
Aviation is a company with virtually no assets, employees, or corporate
history. Moreover, the company did not even possess the necessary FAA license
to perform the aircraft maintenance services for which it had just been
contracted by the city of Lynchburg.
- At a Lynchburg City Council hearing on the dispute there
were vocal objections from observers baffled as to why a company with virtually
no qualifications was being awarded a contract to take over a large regional
maintenance facility designed for major carriers like Delta and USAir Express.
- "It was as if someone with a learner's permit from
the DMV got picked to drive Richard Petty's car at Daytona," explained
one local aviation executive and NASCAR fan.
- "It made absolutely no business sense that anyone
- "Be True to Your School."
- When Britannia Aviation's financial statements were released
after prodding by the local aviation community they revealed Britannia
to be a "company" worth less than $750.
- Paul Marten, a British aircraft mechanic who was the
Britannia executive in attendance, rose to say it wasn't true. Britannia's
assets, he was sure, amounted to more than $750, though how much more was
a question he left unanswered.
- A Lynchburg city official attempted to wave aside objections
that Britannia was insolvent with a joke. "At least they have more
on their balance sheet than Enron," said Lynchburg City Councilman
- Trying to save further embarrassment, Britannia executive
Marten reassured those in attendance that at Huffman's hangar at the Venice
Airport they had for some time been successfully providing aviation maintenance
services for Caribe Air, a Caribbean carrier.
- And that is how the world learned that under Rudi Dekker's
FAA license Paul Marten's little dummy front company worked for a notorious
CIA proprietary air carrier which, even by the standards of a CIA proprietary,
has had a particularly checkered past.
- Caribe Air's history includes 'blemishes' like having
its aircraft seized by federal officials at the infamous Mena Arkansas
airport a decade ago, after the company was accused by government prosecutors
of having used as many as 20 planes to ship drugs worth billions of dollars
into this country.
- "What a coincidence, eh?"
- Ironically, the company also made headlines a dozen years
ago in a scandal in which one of the principals, Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi,
was reportedly killed just this past weekend.
- A Caribe Air C130 had been shot down over Angola with
the loss of everyone aboard, including a US Congressman's nephew. The plane
was on a mission for the Angolan government, it was discovered, laden with
a cargo of whiskey and cigarettes.
- Observers at the time had noted wryly that, while the
CIA had for years been covertly supporting the other side in the Angolan
conflict, Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebels, it now appeared to be playing both
ends against the middle.
- At least when it came to planeloads of swag.
- Though the Congressman with a dead nephew was not amused,
the matter was quickly dropped.
- Curiously enough, Caribe Air is today controlled by an
offshore bank located on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Banc Caribe,
a private bank that may be being investigated currently by authorities
pursuing the names involved in Enron's secret offshore partnerships, many
of which have the name "Caribe" in their title.
- When four offshore bankers were arrested by United States
law enforcement agencies in November and charged with money laundering,
Banc Caribe Ltd., of Dominica was named in one of the affidavits filed.
- This is no doubt merely the sheerest of coincidences.
- When details of the Lynchburg controversy first reached
Venice aviation executives they professed amazement. "No one here
had ever heard of Britannia Aviation before," one told us. "And
this is a very small airport."
- After our inquiry he called a DEA source of his at the
airport, this aviation executive told us, to ask what he knew about Britannia
- "This guy got all excited as soon as I asked,"
this executive stated. "He immediately wanted to know why I was so
interested in Britannia. Finally he reluctantly told me that Britannia
had a 'green light' from the DEA at the Venice Airport, whatever that means.
He also said the local Venice Police Department (which has mounted round-the-clock
patrols at the Airport since Sept.11) had been warned to leave them alone."
- Paul Martens had no comment on the report when we dropped
in on him at his office in a Huffman Aviation hangar at the Venice Airport.
He was just an honest British businessman, he told us. He had ties to Lynchburg
Virginia. He had met his wife there, while she was a student at Jerry Falwell's
- Her father was a pastor for the Reverend Falwell.
- "Jerry Falwell got bailed out in the early '90's
by a Lynchburg businessman whose son is married to Billy Graham's daughter,"
a Lynchburg observer told us. "Since then he runs a missionary service
called World Help, which flies all over the world."
- Many of the flight trainers who had trained the Arab
terrorist pilots had also flown missions out of the Venice and Sarasota
Florida Airports for such Christian missionary services as televangelist
Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing.
- It was "Islamic fundamentalist" Osama bin laden
who cloaked his covert activities under the cover of religious charities.
Were we now discovering that our own government intelligence agencies used
the same ruse?
- What was going on here?
- Christian-linked or not, why did a transparent dummy
front company like Paul Marten's Britannia Aviation have a 'green light'
from the DEA?
- A green light for what?