American Elephants


Saudi Arabia Gets “Trusted Traveler” Status From Janet Napolitano. by The Elephant's Child

Perhaps you remember, in the wake of 9/11, the uproar when we began airport screening and our government twisted itself into politically correct pretzels to avoid paying extra attention to young men from the Middle East of the same general age as the 9/11 terrorists, who perhaps were buying one-way tickets, had little or no luggage, that kind of thing. We could not single out people like that, that would be racist!

Nevermind that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nevermind that one part of the Saudi government is sponsoring radical Wahhabi schools throughout the Muslim world. Nevermind lingering questions and concerns about possible Saudi Arabian support for some of the hijackers or the Ministry of Interior’s inconsistent record on sharing intelligence on suspected terrorists and terror financiers. Nevermind that Saudi terrorists released from Guantanamo are the most likely to be recidivists.

So Homeland Security has embarked on a new program intended to give “trusted traveler” status to low-risk airline passengers which will be extended to Saudi travelers. The Saudi government will vet their own people and they can give them fast-track entry into the United States. We don’t give “trusted traveler” status to France or Germany.  How about Poland? No. Just Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands. Israel has reached a deal, but the partnership has not yet been implemented. It makes no sense.

I understand that Saudi Arabia walks a careful tightrope in the Middle East between the radical elements that surround them, the Western world, Wahhabism, Aramco Oil, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Arab Spring. The Royal family is huge, and while some members are friendly with the West, others support the Wahhabi movement, whose madrassas are a spawning ground for terrorism, and the regime is constantly threatened.

The decision is a turnaround, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) notes, from when Saudi Arabia was briefly placed on a list of countries whose U.S. bound travelers would receive extra scrutiny in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009.

Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke highly of “the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” when she announced the change in January.

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.

The program which began in 2008 to expedite pre-approved passengers through airport customs and security when they arrive in the U.S., is designed to weed out low-risk passengers and enable authorities to zero in on those who may pose a threat. Passengers can skip the line at customs and complete their entry process at an automatic kiosk. Once accepted, travelers can enjoy the greater freedom for five years.

Saudi Arabia sends thousands of travelers into the U.S. each month, and more than 92 percent of Saudis who seek entry visas receive them. In 2012, 20,677 student visas were granted to Saudi citizens. The United States and Saudi Arabia do about $60 billion in business each year, most of it in Saudi oil exports.

Florida Senator Bob Graham, who served on the 9/11 Commission, said the Commission lacked the time and resources “to pursue all potentially relevant evidence” involving Saudi Arabia.  “Significant questions remain unanswered.” Graham has spent years arguing that a 28-page chapter from that inquiry would cast things in a different light if it ever is declassified.

Including Saudi travelers in Global Entry may be “a continuation” of an American policy of deference toward Saudi Arabia. “The question is what was the first step in approving a country to be involved in this? What are the requirements?” Graham asked. “This is not a theoretical. This really happened that 15 Saudis came into the country. I think all by aviation…It would seem there would be some red flags.”

Political correctness should have no place in the government’s business, and especially no place in our national security. This administration does not understand that, and has gotten a lot of our people killed because of that misconception.

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