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US airport security leak: extra security for certain Arabs 9, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The fact that Arab nationals undergo extra checks at US airports is hardly breaking news. Yet, now and for the first time (so far as I know…) the policy itself of which nationalities are deemed necessary for extra checks has leaked out of the US Transport Security Administration. Here’s the relevant bit:

If the individual’s photo ID is a passport issued by the Government of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen or Algeria, refer the individual for selectee screening unless the individual has been exempted from selectee screening by the FSD or aircraft operator.

Given that the vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, that Saudi Arabia is still today a font of – to put it nicely – austere and strict Islamic teachings, the kind of which was indisputably a crucial factor in the 9/11 attacks and countless others besides, and that Saudi Arabia underwent a wave of terrorist bombings only a few years before this document became policy, it is surprising to note that Saudi citizens were not singled out for extra security.

Presumably, there must have been significant diplomatic pressure on US authorities not to add Saudi citizens to such a list. This can surely be the only explanation.

This information leak came to light after a report was released in which the blacking-out had not been done correctly. Not long afterward, someone posted the clean document on Cryptome.org for the world to see. US officials have reacted with relative nonchalance, simply saying that while it is regrettable, procedures are constantly changing and no truly important details were leaked.


1. T - 10, December 2009

It appears to me that the countries singled out are countries whose governments are either hostile to the US (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria…) or where rule of law is very weak (Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Yemen to a certain extent,…), neither of which are the case in Saudi Arabia. While there might possibly have been some sort of diplomatic pressure exerted by the Saudi government, the mere fact that the terrorists who carried out 9/11 were Saudi and that Saudi Arabia could be considered by some as, I quote, “a font of […] austere and strict Islamic teachings” (which for the most part are traditionalist and rather nonthreatening) does not render its citizens a source of security threat much bigger than those of any other country, such as the United Kingdom whose capital is home and breeding ground for radical Islamists (some of whom have committed terrorist acts including the London bombings and join the ranks of Al Qaeda). In brief, I am not sure, and I admit I am speculating, that the criteria which would render a country’s nationals a source of potential security threat such that additional scrutiny and checks be administered upon them completely applies to Saudi Arabia. I am surprised, instead, that Pakistan for instance is not on the list, and not Saudi Arabia.

davidbroberts - 11, December 2009

Many good points, especially the Pakistan one but I still disagree about Saudi. If 9/11 and the large number of Saudis in that attack was some kind of anomaly, then of course there would be no reason to still have them on the list but this is not the case. There have been numerous attacks since in Saudi and the intrinsic infrastructure/climate there is, I believe, still conducive to producing – from time to time – extremists.

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