Republicans question allowing Saudi Arabia into trusted traveler entry program

Excerpt from TheHill

Mar 29, 2013 8:58 am

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If the proper background checks have been done, then no reason why any country should be banned wholesale, short of embargoed countries like North Korea, Cuba and others.

— Rafat Ali

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House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) is pressing for answers about why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun talks to allow air travelers from Saudi Arabia to use a pre-screening system (Global Entry Program) to fly to the United States….McCaul and nine other Republicans asked for more details about what steps the department is taking to guard against potential terrorists using Global Entry to enter the United States.

A DHS official speaking on background said that any potential agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United States will depend on an agreed upon standard level of background checks and a thorough vetting of travelers by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which will include criminal histories, customs and immigration violations, agriculture violations, investigatory records, and terrorist indices.

From the letter:

As members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, we seek assurances from the department that passengers from countries added to the program will receive the appropriate screening.

This committee is supportive of the department’s efforts to expand trade and increase travel to the United States. However, we remain vigilant for vulnerabilities that our enemies can exploit to gain access to the homeland. Expanding Global Entry to high-risk countries may represent such a risk.

Of the 19 individuals who hijacked American planes on September 11, 2001 — 15 were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…More recently, following the plot to blow up an international flight over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the Department saw fit to increase the scrutiny of passengers from countries like Saudi Arabia. This must be a factor in determining who to admit into the Global Entry Program.

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