DHS questioned over decision to let Saudi passengers skip normal passport controls, Special status? Saudis to skip normal customs….
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. 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.
Any Saudi travelers cleared through the program will be able to bypass the normal customs line after providing passports and fingerprints. The status lasts for five years.
The Global Entry program was launched in 2008 to expedite pre-approved passengers through the airport customs and security process when they arrive in the U.S. The program is designed to weed out low-risk passengers and enable authorities to zero in on those who may be more likely to pose a threat. Concerns that drug cartels would quickly learn how to exploit loopholes in the plan. DHS officials, however, insisted at the time that people who attain trusted traveler status don’t get a free pass and are still subject to random searches. To attain a low-risk status that allows them to skip the line at customs and complete their entry process at an automatic kiosk.