Outcry grows over $5M terror award

Senators ask why two men were overlooked.

By Times Wires
Published January 26, 2008

WASHINGTON - Minnesota Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar asked the State Department Friday to explain why two flight school managers whose phone tips led to the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui were passed over for cash rewards.

They said those men deserved recognition along with a third employee of the Pan American International Flight Academy, Clarence Prevost, who received a $5-million check Thursday under the State Department's Rewards for Justice program in a private ceremony.

A 2005 Senate resolution commended the "bravery" and "heroism" of tipsters Tim Nelson and Hugh Sims for alerting the FBI about a month before the attacks.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the program made awards based on nominations from law enforcement agencies. "If there's relevant information that either affected the initial decision or that would make others eligible for rewards, then certainly we'd be open to considering that."

Prevost, 70, of Coral Gables, gave Moussaoui ground-school lessons in flying a 747 jumbo jet at the Twin Cities area school over two days in August 2001.

He was a key witness at Moussaoui's trial, testifying that he told colleagues and supervisors that he found Moussaoui's behavior odd, but he didn't call the FBI at the time.

Nelson and Sims, who called the bureau without the school's authorization, expressed disbelief that they were overlooked. Nelson said Friday that he was "insulted and embarrassed."

Sims, 68, in a phone interview from Fort Myers, recounted meeting Moussaoui at Pan Am on a Monday and said that two days later he and Nelson each called the FBI separately.

Prevost "was certainly there but he didn't call the FBI," Sims said. "I have no idea why he received the reward. The two people who actually picked up the phone and called (the FBI) aren't included in this. That's what's really disappointing."

John Rosengren, who was director of operations at the Minnesota flight school when Moussaoui was there, said Sims and Nelson were at least equally deserving of the reward, if not more so.

The reward to Prevost was the first relating to the FBI's investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks under the program that compensates those who turn in terrorists.