Trusted-Travel Status for Country that Produced Most of the 9/11 Hijackers
Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said "several" of her colleagues are up in arms about the agreement and questioned the security protocols that will be used by Saudi Arabian and DHS officials in vetting trusted travelers.
She also noted the administration's brief listing of Saudi Arabia among 14 countries from which travelers would receive extra airport security screening. "This is a stark turnaround that at the very least deserves some answers," Ros-Lehtinen said.
That 2010 order was quickly lifted in the wake of interest groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council protesting the inclusion of mostly Muslim countries on the list. It also came a year after the White House complained about observations that Obama made a bowing motion when greeting Saudi King Abdullah.
"The new TSA guidelines deliver a propaganda victory to al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, since they rob targeted groups of people from their civil liberties based on their ethnicity and country of origin," said MPAC Government Liaison Alejandro Beutel in January 2010. "Call it whatever you want, but this is religious and ethnic profiling at its worst."
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), along with all of the subcommittee chairmen, protested the Global Entry designation in a letter to Napolitano last week.
"Despite our longstanding relationship with the Kingdom, there are potential risks in opening this program to Saudi Arabia that must be considered," McCaul wrote along with Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Candice Miller (R-Mich.), and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).
"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." That includes a request for explanations on why DHS decided to extend the agreement to the Saudis in the first place and how they'll work with Saudi authorities to screen passengers.
"This Committee is supportive of the Department's efforts to expand trade and increase travel to the United States," the lawmakers wrote. "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."
Ros-Lehtinen singled out details yet to be learned as especially troubling.
“This is an administration that has consistently overpromised and under delivered on transparency," Ros-Lehtinen said. "For an administration that claims that transparency is one of its top priorities, this is a perfect opportunity for it to show the American people how it came to this decision, and what it will do to ensure that our national security is its utmost concern.”