Review of Saudi military students shows no threats, Pentagon says
An initial review of some 850 Saudi military students training in the United States did not uncover any signs that the remaining Saudi students pose an immediate threat, the Pentagon announced.
The review of available information, including government data and social media accounts began after this month’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a Saudi officer.
“We can report that no information indicating an immediate threat scenario was discovered,” Garry Reid, the Defense Department’s director for defense intelligence, counter-intelligence, law enforcement and security, told reporters Thursday.
The enhanced screening of the Saudi students’ government and commercial data and social media accounts will now be applied to all international students training in the US, a population of about 5,000.
Last week, the US military paused the operational training of hundreds of Saudi students at several training locations following the deadly December 6 shooting. The Saudi students have been restricted to classroom instruction since the review began.
The shooting, which was carried out by a 21-year-old Saudi Air Force officer, killed three young servicemembers. Two deputies exchanged fire with the Saudi shooter, killing him on the scene. The FBI is presuming the shooting was “an act of terrorism,” the FBI special agent leading the investigation said that weekend.
After a review of government data on the current Saudi military students and their social media accounts, a senior US defense official told reporters Thursday that the Pentagon “didn’t uncover any information relative to the population of Saudi Arabian military students that gave us any reason to take any immediate actions, including further examining that data set or consulting with the school houses.”
The screening involved all Saudi students in the US, including the dozen Saudi students who have been restricted to their living quarters at the Pensacola base as part of the investigation into the shooting. There are approximately 140 Saudi Arabian students training at NAS Pensacola and another 35 at nearby NAS Whiting Field.
Officials said that they are not ruling out the possibility that additional information about threats could emerge from other law enforcement or intelligence channels.
Officials would also not say when operational training for Saudi students would resume, suggesting that this would be left to the discretion of the military services providing the training.