Venice Terrorist Flight School Linked To CIA

Published: Wed 27 Feb 2002 01:05 PM
Venice Terrorist Flight School Linked To CIA
Firm has 'green light' from local DEA
Sitting in front of Rudi's hangar: a commuter plane belonging to
(take your pick) Florida Air, Express Air, or Sunrise Airlines
by Daniel Hopsicker
February 25--Venice, Florida
(originally published at The Mad Cow Morning News)
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 11th.
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 Regional Airport.
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 could see."
"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 Robert Garber.
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 Aviation.
"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 Liberty University.
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?
- Daniel Hopsicker is the author of Barry & 'the boys: The CIA, the Mob and America's Secret History. Email the author at

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