Back to square one: A just released scathing report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) documents a systematic failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate sham educational businesses that arrange student visas. Even worse is the indictment of DHS for ignoring the training of foreigners as pilots in uncertified flight schools.

The GAO found that files on educational institutions that DHS is supposed to maintain were missing. It also documented a failure by the department to comply with a congressional mandate to investigate and recertify schools that sponsor foreign students and a failure to share information on problems in the student monitoring system within DHS and with other executive branch agencies.

The security lapses identified by GAO are especially egregious given the context of the situation that led to the creation of DHS. The frantic review of U.S. visa security measures in the wake of the 9/11 attacks exposed the fact that there were thousands of fake educational establishments authorized to issue documents that enabled foreigners to enter the United States as students but who never attended school. It also revealed that the pilots of the hijacked aircraft had received pilot training in the United States without authorization from the immigration authorities. DHS was established to better coordinate national security operations – a responsibility that the GAO report shows it has failed to achieve.