Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly: "Saudi Arabia was home to nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers. So why did the Department of Homeland Security here in the US just grant special travel privileges to the Saudis when we don't even give that to Israel, to France, to Germany? That's next."
Kelly: "Well new outrage of the families of some 9/11 victims as the Department of Homeland Security gives a special travel status to some folks from Saudi Arabia, the nation that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11thattacks. They are being offered a deal that is not even available to some of our closest allies. Why? Steve Emerson is the founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and he's gotten to the bottom of this. So this happened quietly in January and now some of the 9/11 families are getting wind of it and saying why on earth would we do this? It's essentially giving you like the speedy pass at Disney to skip the line and go right up to the front of the ride. And we don't give it to Germany, we don't give it to France, we just granted it to Israel but it hasn't kicked in yet. But Saudi Arabia, go right ahead?"
Steven Emerson: "You know Megyn, it's not just bizarre, it's truly disturbing. Not all the details have even been released to Congress but the bottom line is when we saw the memo that was leaked to us about the details of it, it's called the Global Entry Program, and it expedites travel visa applicants from Saudi Arabia to the United States to go to the head of the line without necessarily being vetted entirely by the United States. Now part of the vetting is being done by the Minister of Interior in Saudi Arabia. And remember that Saudi Arabia, some accusations have been made by former senators that the government itself took part in the 9/11 conspiracy. And number two, they [Saudi Arabia has]….the highest recidivism level of former Gitmo detainees in the world. That is, those that come back to Saudi Arabia, return to becoming jihadists. So why we are allowing the Saudis to vet Saudi applicants and them allow them to jump to the head of the line without even going through customs and border patrol in the United States is absolutely disturbing and bizarre and I think Congress is going to hold hearings about this.
Kelly: "OK but we also do vetting. I agree with you there's an issue with the Saudis screening since our Congressional Research Service describes them as a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism, and since as you point out former Florida senator Bob Graham who chaired the Senate Intel Committee at the time of 9/11 and was co-chair of a joint congressional inquiry comes out and says I'm convinced there was a direct line between at least some of the 9/11 terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia. So we don't have that much faith in their screening when they tell us oh this person can be fast tracked, this person can skip the line. But we do our own screening here as well before we give them the special access pass, so why shouldn't we feel OK about that?"
Emerson: "Well in fact under the enhanced visa security program that applied to Saudi Arabia after 9/11 and those countries that were considered to be major proponents of Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia was not allowed to vet its own people. We vetted it. That is, the United States government – DHS, Homeland Security, Customs, Border Patrol, CIA – we did all the vetting. Now suddenly we're sharing that vetting. And we don't know all the details. And you're right that we will still have a role in the vetting, but what happens when a Saudi applicant is passed by them, vetted by them and they say they're ok, they get a 5-year visa fast tracked into the United States and then suddenly new material develops that they're really Hizbollah or they're Hamas. You think the Saudis are going to tell us?"
Kelly: "Here in the United States they must satisfy a security clearance process including an interview with the customs agent. I mean that sounds more rigorous than when you just pass through customs when you're arriving in the US and going through customs, no?"
Emerson: "In coordination however with the Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia. In other words, it's a joint vetting process. And the details that you correctly point out are not exactly clear at this point. Yes you're right that the United States government still has vetting appropriation jurisdiction over those applicants –"
Kelly: "We're short on time but I want to ask you why are we doing this? We don't do it for Germany or France, why do we do it for the Saudis?"
Emerson: "I think it has to do with oil, I think it has to do with the fact that – remember after the Abdul Mutallab attempted attack, the underwear bomber three years ago, Saudi Arabia was put on the list of secondary countries to be inspected. [After] they complained bitterly in a Wiki leaks cable, they were taken off within three weeks. I think it's politics. And I think it's very dangerous because I simply don't believe we can trust their vetting and to the extent that they are involved in that vetting we're putting our own national security in danger."
Kelly: "Yeah, we've gone from saying that the Saudis need enhanced screening to saying that they can get less screening if their government and we determine that it's fine. Steve, thank you."
Emerson: "You're welcome."
Click here to read IPT's recent expose revealing Saudi Arabia's Unprecedented Role in Vetting Visa Applicants to the U.S.