The Saudi “trusted traveler” program is not scheduled to begin until January of 2014, but we’ve seen enough ICE and FBI failures to demand an end to the Saudi “free pass” program before it begins. The Boston Marathon tragedy confirmed our vulnerability to ICE and FBI lapses. Visa enforcement is not happening. Warnings are being casually discarded and travel restrictions are not being imposed upon “suspect” individuals.
In January of this year, our Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, announced that the Saudis will be granted a direct role in deciding who will be granted “fast-track” entry to the U.S.. Beginning next year Saudi travelers granted a “fast pass” will be able to skip normal Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) checks. They will be able to bypass the long lines and the CBP face-to-face questioning required of most international travelers. Saudis with a “fast pass” will simply flash their passports and leave their fingerprints at an unmanned kiosk.
This most favored treatment has not been afforded to our friends in France or to our friends in Germany. The trusted traveler program has been approved for Israeli travelers but the start date hasn’t been announced. The only nations enjoying the Global Entry privilege are Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands.
Americans should be asking, “Why the Saudis?”
15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attack were Saudi nationals. The Saudi Ministry of the Interior has been reluctant to share its intelligence on suspected terrorists and their financiers. Two former U.S. Senators are still convinced after co-chairing the joint congressional inquiry investigating the attack that agents of the Saudi government were involved with the perpetrators. A still-classified chapter of the inquiry focused on the hijackers’ financial support. Former Senator Bob Graham joined Sharon Premoli in a joint article for the Huffington Post in which they wrote,
“those 28 pages represent only a fraction of the evidence of Saudi complicity that our government continues to shield from the public, under a flawed classification program which appears to be part of a systematic effort to protect Saudi Arabia from any real accountability for its actions.”
In an affidavit submitted to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Senator Graham said,
“I am convinced that al Bayoumi was an agent of the government of Saudi Arabia. To this date this evidence has not been fully explored and pursued, to the considerable detriment of the American public. Whether other of the hijackers also received support from elements of the Saudi government has never been adequately explored. The American public deserves a more robust inquiry into these issues.”
Financial ties are perhaps the most important key to a successful terrorist. Money pays for the training, for the documentation, for the living expenses, for the travel, for the explosives, for the weaponry, and for the accomplices who will work behind the scenes. Without the money there is little chance of success. The source of that money is, of course, Middle Eastern oil. This administration and those of the past have buried any and all links indicating Saudi complicity with terrorists. We shouldn’t be surprised that the financial chapter of the 9/11 inquiry was, and still is classified.
One of the most disturbing blurbs that whipped quickly through the press right after the Boston Marathon bombing was the story about the Saudi national who was taken in for questioning “as a person of interest.” The very next day President Obama had an unscheduled meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal at the White House. Secretary of State John Kerry also had a meeting with the Prince on the same day and both meetings were closed to the press. A short time after those meetings ended it was announced that Saudi National, Abdul al-Harbi, would be deported based upon “national security grounds.”
Abdul al-Harbi happens to be a devout Muslim from Medina and he shares the same last name with a Saudi clan heavily involved in terrorism, many of whom are active al-Qaida fighters. At least five of them are currently residing at Gitmo. Six or more of them are on the Saudi government’s list of 85 wanted terrorists. Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi has a $5 million dollar reward on his head issued by the U.S. State Department. Adel Radi is an al-Qaida operative based in Iran who serves as the deputy to Muhsin al-Fadhi who runs Iran’s al-Qaida network.
Abdul Rahman al-Harbi is a 20-year-old Saudi who was here on a student visa. He may have been an innocent student who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, like many of the unfortunate victims of the terrorists’ bombs. To release him only 15 hours after the bombing and to deport him for national security reasons seems curious and premature. The FBI’s investigation of his associates, his classmates and his family members would have barely been initiated. There were no suspects to the crime at the time. Why did we see President Obama step in so quickly? Why the immediate meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister?
The only statement given to the press about the unscheduled meetings with the Saudi Foreign Minister came from Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokeswoman, who claimed the topic of the discussion was “developments in the region, including the conflict in Syria.” The meeting, Ms. Hayden said, was to “reaffirm the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
Obviously our relationship with the Saudis is more important than any additional information we could have gained from further questioning of Abdul. One must ask, however, “How effective would the FBI’s questioning have been?” They failed us completely following the Benghazi tragedy. We still have no answers, no suspects and no arrests. All we have are sidesteps and professional dance maneuvers.
The CIA interrogation group that might have stopped the Underwear Bomber in his tracks was dismantled by the Obama administration shortly before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab hopped on his Christmas Day flight to Detroit. The FBI’s High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG) assumed the CIA’s interrogation role, but has failed us five times since 9/11:
• Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers.
o After being tipped by the Russians about his extremist ties, the FBI interviewed, investigated and found nothing. No follow-up two years later after his 6-month trip to Russia in 2012. Where did he go while there? Who did he meet with? Where did he get his financial resources? What jihadist ties did he have?
• Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Underwear Bomber.
o Even President Obama called this one an “intelligence failure.” A month before his flight Umar’s father contacted the U.S. embassy in Abuja, the Nigerian capital to tell us that his son was being radicalized in Yemen. A day later our counterterrorism department received the tip but decided the information was not enough to pull his US visa or to place him on a “no-fly” list. The UK already had him on their no-fly list and had pulled his UK visa. On December 16th Umar purchased his ticket from Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit with nearly $3000 in cash. He boarded without checking or carrying any luggage. The CIA and the FBI did nothing. “We missed him at every step,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra.
• Nidal Hasan, the Ft Hood terrorist.
o The Army and the FBI missed all the signs on this one and 13 people were killed. The FBI had compelling evidence of Hasan’s extremism that should have led to his discharge and a full investigation of his terrorist ties.
• Anwar al Awlaki, spiritual leader of several of the 9/11 hijackers.
o The FBI began investigating Awlaki in 1999 after he was visited by Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. Links to Al Qaida figures and to Hamas financing were not enough to warrant continuing the investigation. One month before the investigation closed he spoke four times to hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi. Bayoumi, the Saudi official, had also been under a separate FBI investigation at about the same time.
• Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammed (born Carlos Leon Bledsoe), the Little Rock, Arkansas shooter.
o Bledsoe was interviewed by the same FBI agent twice before the shootings, once while he was in prison in Yemen and again in Nashville when he returned to the U.S. He was never placed under surveillance because he wasn’t believed to “pose a threat.” Bledsoe’s father blames the FBI for the death of the Army recruit his son killed. They knew his son had extremist ties, but the FBI did nothing.
The FBI’s 30-day investigations and ICE’s visa tracking system need major overhauls and system upgrades. Test periods to determine their accuracy and effectiveness need to be completed before the Department of Homeland Security drops free entry passes into the hands of the Saudis or into the hands of any of our Middle Eastern “friends.”
The Global Entry Privilege cards should be placed in the circular file. We cannot afford their risk to our public safety. Every Saudi, every Libyan, every Nigerian, every Yemeni, every Somali, every Iranian and every North Korean must be stopped and interviewed at the border. In fact, just to make it fair, we need to stop everyone before they enter our country. We need to interview every applicant before we grant access to our great country.
STOP the Global Entry Privilege cards, especially for the Saudis! Contact your congressional representatives and let them know that everyone needs to be interviewed at the border and rechecked once a year if on work or student visas.
The Saudis are not our friends. They want our money, but they hate our politics, our religions and our freedoms.
We’ve experienced the horror of hatred.
We cannot afford to lower our guard
or close our eyes
as the terrorists extend their reach.