WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar asked the State Department on 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.
Coleman, a Republican, called tipsters Tim Nelson and Hugh Sims ``American heroes.'' Without mentioning money, he said he'd contacted the State Department to ``see what can be done to ensure they receive the credit they are due.''
Klobuchar, a Democrat, said in a letter to the department that Nelson and Sims ``played a critical role in this case and are equally deserving of recognition.''
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,'' he said, ``then certainly we'd be open to considering that.''
Prevost, 70, gave Moussaoui ground-school lessons in flying a 747 jumbo jet over two days in August 2001. He testified at Moussaoui's 2006 death-penalty trial that he'd told colleagues and supervisors that he found Moussaoui's behavior odd, but he didn't phone 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'' by the decision.
The reward to Prevost was the first relating to the FBI's massive investigation of the 9-11 terrorist attacks under the program that compensates those who turn in terrorists.
Coleman noted that he and former Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota were sponsors of a resolution lauding Nelson and Sims. Coleman said he thought ``that any honor bestowed by the State Department on people who assisted in the arrest and capture of Zacarias Moussaoui should include both of these gentlemen.''
Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2006 after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hijack planes and crash them into buildings. He later tried to withdraw the plea, but federal sentencing rules prohibited that.