A Department of Homeland Security program intended to give "trusted traveler" status to low-risk airline passengers soon will be extended to Saudi travelers, opening the program to criticism for accommodating the country that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sources voiced concern about the decision to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which issued a report Wednesday on the under-the-radar announcement — which was first made by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after meeting in January with her Saudi counterpart. According to the IPT, this would be the first time the Saudi government has been given such a direct role in fast-tracking people for entry into the United States.
"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," Rep. Frank Wolf told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "There were 15 [hijackers] from that country, and there is a lot taking place in that region."
Only an exclusive handful of countries enjoy inclusion in the Global Entry program — Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands. According to the IPT, some officials are questioning why Saudi Arabia gets to reap the benefits of the program, when key U.S. allies like Germany and France are not enrolled; Israel has reached a deal with the U.S., but that partnership has not yet been implemented.