By Andy Soltis New York Post
Saudi Arabia, which gave us 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, will soon get the coveted “trusted traveler” status from the Department of Homeland Security.
Saudi travelers who are cleared through the program could bypass normal customs lines after showing their passports and providing fingerprints.
Only a few other countries — Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands and South Korea — have been granted the same status, which is designed to ease entry into the United States for low-risk airline passengers.
The decision was made in January after a meeting in Washington between Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Saudi Arabian Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, but gained little attention, Fox News reported.
But the Investigative Project on Terrorism issued a report yesterday, noting that the Obama administration’s decision to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s status was a sharp change from 2010, when that country was among 14 whose travelers had to undergo extra screening.
That was in reaction to the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing over Detroit. The new rules placed Saudi Arabia on a list of other suspected breeding grounds for terrorists, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) told the IPT that including Saudi Arabia in the Global Entry program for “trusted travelers” was wrong.
“I think you have radical Wahhabism in certain elements in Saudi Arabia,” he said, referring to a fundamentalist Islamic sect. “And I think to be more lenient there than in other places would be a mistake.”
After 9/11, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that 15 of the 19 airplane hijackers were Saudi citizens.
“There were 15 from that country, and there is a lot taking place in that region,” said Wolf.
After agreeing to the change in status in January, Napolitano said, “I am proud of the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and today’s meeting marks another major step forward in our partnership.
“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 so-called Global Entry program was begun in 2008 to speed preapproved passengers through often sluggish airport customs and security process at American airports.
“Trusted travelers,” who undergo background checks, interviews with US agents and other screening get to keep their status for five years.