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WASHINGTON – Saudi Arabia was “shocked” to learn the Justice Department has added Saudi to a list of terrorist-sponsoring countries subject to immigration restrictions, a spokesman for the royal government told WorldNetDaily yesterday.
According to a highly sensitive four-page Justice memo (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) – publicly revealed for the first time yesterday by WND – Attorney General John Ashcroft has authorized U.S. immigration inspectors to begin fingerprinting, photographing and tracking Saudi nationals who enter the U.S. on visas.
Certain Saudi visitors will be scrutinized to the same degree as those from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria – known Middle Eastern terrorist-sponsoring countries.
The new Saudi screening, which targets males between 16 and 45, goes into effect Oct. 1. Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, all young males, were Saudi citizens.
“No one had any knowledge of this memo,” said the Saudi spokesman. “The Saudi government is obviously quite shocked and surprised to be added to that list.”
The Bush administration has tried to keep the new watch list – which also includes Pakistan and Yemen, Saudi’s southern neighbor – as quiet as possible. Diplomatically, it’s radioactive; both Saudi and Pakistan are viewed as U.S. allies.
Justice officials have been ordered not to talk to the press on the record about the list, called “Phase 2” of the new special registration of high-risk foreign visitors mandated under The Patriot Act, the homeland security measure passed last year after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The memo, dated Sept. 5, warns Immigration and Naturalization Service officials to limit its circulation.
“This information is not to be discussed or shared with the media or the public,” the memo says (emphasis in the original).
On page 3 of the document, it says Ashcroft has authorized immigration inspectors to consider for special registration any foreign visitor to the U.S. who has traveled to Saudi Arabia, among several other Muslim countries, and can’t give a credible explanation for their trip.
The Saudi spokesman, who wished not to be identified until the royal family prepares a more formal reaction, said the kingdom feels betrayed in light of what he characterized as a “high level of support for America and cooperation” in its war on terrorism.
“You can imagine why the Saudi government will have a very tough time swallowing this,” he said.
The Saudi government has been accused, however, of financing al-Qaida operations through Saudi-based charities, such as the Muslim World League and the International Islamic Relief Organization.
Its cooperation in the war also has come under question.
Saudi Arabia has been slow in freezing assets tied to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who hails from Saudi, and has been reluctant to let U.S. forces use air bases there.
One Pentagon briefer recently called Saudi Arabia the “kernel” of terrorism in the world, spreading Wahhabism – or militant Islamic supremacy – through mosques it funds throughout the Middle East, as well as in the West.