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Flight instructor gets $5 million for catching terror suspect

  • Story Highlights
  • Minnesota instructor notices Zacarias Moussaoui's odd behavior, tells bosses
  • His bosses, at first reluctant, eventually alert FBI who arrest Moussaoui
  • Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda operative, was in jail during September 11, 2001
  • Clarence "Clancy" Prevost receives $5 million from State Department Thursday
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Minnesota flight instructor who notified his bosses of student Zacarias Moussaoui's suspicious behavior received a $5 million reward Thursday from the State Department, two government officials told CNN.


Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted in 2006 of conspiring to kill Americans on September 11, 2001.

Clarence "Clancy" Prevost was an instructor at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota, when Moussaoui was a student there.

Moussaoui is the only person charged and convicted in connection with the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Prevost received the reward from the State Department's Rewards for Justice program in a closed ceremony at the State Department, the officials told CNN.

Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda operative, was prevented from participating in the 9/11 attacks because he was in jail. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in connection with his role in 9/11.

He is held at the federal Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado.

Prevost, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot, has never spoken publicly about Moussaoui, but testified during the sentencing phase of Moussaoui's trial. He said that by the second day of teaching Moussaoui, he heard that Moussaoui paid the bulk of his $8,300 tuition for a flight simulator course in hundred-dollar bills. And that made Prevost think the FBI should be notified.

He testified that he found Moussaoui to be a "pretty genial guy" until a lunchtime conversation turned to the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca made by Muslims. Prevost wanted to know if Moussaoui could explain the Hajj to him and asked, "Are you Muslim?"

Prevost testified that Moussaoui responded by raising his voice and saying, "I am nothing!"

Prevost testified that he approached his managers, and recalled telling them, "We don't know anything about this guy, and we're teaching him how to throw the switches on a 747."

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But he said his managers at first told him Moussaoui had paid his money and they didn't care.

Prevost testified that he told his bosses, "We'll care when there's a hijacking and the lawsuits come in."

He testified Moussaoui's stated goal of learning to fly from Heathrow Airport in London to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport was unusual from the beginning, because Moussaoui had 50-odd hours of flight time on a single-engine propeller plane and no pilot's license.

Prevost testified he usually had students with more than 600 hours of flight time, and that they are usually professional pilots looking to upgrade their skills and fly bigger jets for a higher salary.

But Moussaoui, he testified, "had no frame of reference whatsoever with a commercial airliner. After 15 minutes I said, 'Let's get lunch.' "

Prevost said he was worried that if Moussaoui completed the three four-hour 747 simulator sessions he had booked, he would know how to operate a real 747.

He testified that he let Moussaoui sit in on another student's simulator session, but he never got any of his own sessions.

A day after Prevost went to his bosses with his concerns, two Pan Am program managers called the FBI, leading to Moussaoui's arrest on an immigration violation. Moussaoui had stayed in the United States past his allowed 90 days on his French passport.

In November, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, presented Prevost with its 2007 Presidential Citation Award for his efforts to alert authorities to Moussaoui, according to an ALPA statement. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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