Special Travel Benefit for Saudis a “Slap in the Face”
An agreement to accept Saudi Arabian applicants into the Global Entry trusted traveler program drew little notice when it was announced in January. Now, some officials question why the country merits such a benefit – IPT News
From IPT News
March 20, 2013
Saudi Arabia, the nation which produced 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks, is about to become one of a handful of countries whose travelers can bypass normal passport controls at major U.S. airports. Sources tell the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) that this will mark the first time that the Saudi government will have a direct role in vetting who is eligible for getting fast-tracked for entry into the United States.
An agreement to accept Saudi Arabian applicants into the Global Entry trusted traveler program drew little notice when it was announced in January. Now, some officials question why the country merits such a benefit – which is similar to a theme park “fast pass” to avoid long lines – when other allies like Germany and France are not yet included. A program for Israeli travelers was reached last May but has not been implemented.
Travelers approved for the program can skip the normal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lines starting next year and enter the country after providing their passports and fingerprints at a kiosk. Only Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands currently enjoy the benefit, although pilot programs could expand it to a handful of others.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the agreement in January after meeting with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. It “marks another major step forward in our partnership,” Napolitano said at the time. “By enhancing collaboration with the Government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.”
Details about how the plan will work with the Saudis have not been released. Nayef’s ministry, however, will be responsible for screening which applicants will be considered when the pilot program begins next year. It’s not known whether the Saudi ministry will share its raw intelligence about applicants with its American counterparts. What is known, based on information provided by a Homeland Security source, is that each individual who makes it into the program will have been vetted by both the CPB and by the Saudi Interior Ministry against various databases.
The Department of Homeland Security declined to make anyone available to answer questions about Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in the Global Entry program after repeated requests throughout last week, and after indicating someone would provide more details.
That is cause for concern, given lingering questions about possible Saudi support for some of the 9/11 hijackers and given the Ministry of Interior (MOI)’s inconsistent record on sharing its intelligence on suspected terrorists and terror financiers. Additionally, recent studies by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified significant problems in the way DHS components use computer systems and process intelligence for posting watch list lookouts and overseas screening of foreign nationals.
Once accepted into Global Entry, travelers can enjoy the faster border entry for five years.
A memo obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism said Saudi applicants “must meet the individual vetting criteria of both CBP and the MOI, and successfully complete vetting by each side against information available in various law enforcement, customs, immigration, criminal, intelligence, and terrorist databases.”
That doesn’t bring confidence to those who have investigated Saudi Arabian connections to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., whose district lost more than 70 people during the attack on the Pentagon, called the pact a bad idea. He also stated that he had not previously heard about the deal.
“I think you have radical Wahhabism in certain elements in Saudi Arabia, and I think to be more lenient there than in other places would be a mistake,” Wolf said. “There were 15 [hijackers] from that country, and there is a lot taking place in that region.
“Some of the people who went back to Saudi Arabia through Guantanamo – we find that they are in battlefields in Afghanistan or some other place, so I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Saudis have long been known for withholding information from their American counterparts. Wolf recalls that the Saudis obstructed former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s effort to investigate the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing by refusing to share information.
“I think there has been a history of not cooperating,” Wolf said.
The Saudis paved the way for 9/11 by funding the madrassas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which adds to Wolf’s concern.
Steve Emerson (IPT) on Fox News with Megyn Kelly Discussing the expose:
COMMENT/ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia’s role in producing, financing, and facilitating Islamic terror is well documented. While the Saudi government claims to support anti-terror initiatives, radical elements based there pull many of the strings running the country, frequently hampering western efforts to combat terror.
Allowing politics and special interests to trump sensible security concerns is extremely dangerous. Permitting a system where the average air traveler is subject to often pointless security screening procedures while citizens from a country where 15 of the 19 terrorists responsible for the largest terrorist attack on our nation hailed from, is asinine and reckless.
The following 1982 movie clip was meant to be a comedic parody, but with this reported policy it is now a very somber glimpse of today’s “real world”:
- Obama admin to extend ‘trusted traveler’ status to Saudi passengers, allowing them to skip normal passport controls… What could go wrong? (redflagnews.com)
- White House Approves Program Allowing Saudi Citizens To Bypass Normal Airport Security, Wounded Marines Not So Much (directorblue.blogspot.com)