U.S. Grants Saudis 'Trusted Traveler' Privileges to Help Them Through Airport Security

By Joe Schoffstall | March 27, 2013 | 1:48pm EDT

The Obama Administration is making it easier for Saudis to get through security at airports. In fact, now they will be allowed to bypass custom authorities due to an agreement quietly signed between U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Saudi Arabian Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Saudi Arabia acknowledged 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

On January 16, 2013, Janet Napolitano met with Mohammed bin Nayef and announced the plan. Napolitano stated, "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."

During the meeting, the two signed an agreement to begin implementation of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) trusted traveler program, Global Entry. Global Entry streamlines the screening process at airports, allowing customs to bypass "trusted travelers" and focus on those they know less about. Those in the program can skip normal Customs and Border protection lines starting next year. Participants may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at select airports, according to the Global Entry website. They must present passports and fingerprints at kiosks, and make a customs declaration.

"Details about how the plan will work with the Saudis have not been released. Nayef's ministry, however, will be responsible for screening which applicants will be considered when the pilot program begins next year. It's not known whether the Saudi ministry will share its raw intelligence about applicants with its American counterparts," writes The Investigative Project on Terrorism. "What is known, based on information provided by a Homeland Security source, is that each individual who makes it into the program will have been vetted by both the CBP and by the Saudi Interior Ministry against various databases."

Judicial Watch adds, "It's downright outrageous that the Obama administration is now making it easier for Saudis to enter the United States. Consider that just three years ago the U.S. government actually placed Saudi Arabia on a list of 14 countries whose travelers would face enhanced security when entering the country. Why? Because a Saudi national named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. commercial airliner on Christmas Day in 2009."

Only a select few are currently a part of the Global Entry program including Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and the Netherlands.

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