The Saudi man initially identified by law enforcement as a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombing remains a concern of four members of the House Committee on Homeland Security who have asked DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for classified briefings on his case along with an overview of relevant records.
A spokesman for Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., told WND the committee has not received a response from Napolitano to a letter issued Friday that he signed along with Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the committee chairman; Peter King, R-N.Y.; and Candice Miller, R-Mich.
Spokesman Allen Klump noted that on the day of the twin bombings in Boston that killed three people and injured more than 200, law enforcement officials said that Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, who was hospitalized with injuries resulting from the blast, was a person of interest.
Within 48 hours, however, after raiding the Saudi citizen’s apartment and hauling out computers and email records, Alharbi was being described by authorities only as a “witness” who had suffered injury in the blast. Later, authorities insisted he was not even a witness.
The letter from the four congressmen was first reported by The Blaze, which reported further details Monday about Alharbi after WND reported last week of questions that arose regarding the Saudi’s handling by authorities.
Among The Blaze’s reporting today is an allegation that Alharbi was classified as a terrorist but his file was altered.
Klump clarified that the Homeland Security Committee members are not saying Alharbi is a suspect in the Boston bombing but are questioning why he was absolved so quickly, particularly after so much information apparently had been gathered.
“Common sense would indicate that we don’t need to lose the ability to have access to this witness until a complete picture is painted,” Klump told WND.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to WND’s request for comment.
In a hearing last Thursday of the Committee on Homeland Security, Napolitano reacted with indignation and anger when Duncan questioned her about Alharbi’s case.
Napolitano insisted she was “unaware of anyone being deported for national security concerns at all related to Boston.”
The letter notes Napolitano’s response and says that, nevertheless, “media reports have continued to raise concerns about this individual and adjustments that may have been made to his immigration status, including possible visa revocation and terrorist watch-listing, in the days following the bombing.”
“We request the Department provide a detailed overview of the records associated with this individual to include his law enforcement and immigration records prior to April 15, 2013, as well as his current status,” the Congress members state. “We request briefers from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection.”
The Blaze reported the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center issued an event file for Alharbi calling for his deportation using Section 212, 3B, which is proven terrorist activity. By late Wednesday afternoon, however, the file had been altered.
The Blaze cited a law-enforcement source who was part of the process of identifying Alharbi.
Todd Starnes of Fox News, meanwhile, reported that before the bombing Monday, Alharbi had been flagged on a terrorist watch list and granted a student visa without being properly vetted.
Sources close to the investigation told Starnes the Saudi is still set for deportation.
Although Alharbi has been studying in Massachusetts, his student visa specifically allows him to go to school only in Findlay, Ohio, according to The Blaze.
Authorities now insist Alharbi had nothing to do with the attack and was not a witness.
Another Saudi, identified as Noura Al-Ajaji, was similarly reported to have been merely an injured bystander.
After the attack, Monday, Alharbi, 22, was questioned by federal authorities for two hours while his roommate, Mohammud Hassan Bada, 20, was questioned for five hours. Monday evening, FBI and ATF agents, along with Boston police officers raided their apartment in Revere, Mass., and hauled out bags of material.
Bada acknowledged to the Boston Herald that the seized items include computers and emails.
But by Wednesday, Revere, Mass., police Lt. Amy O’Hara said federal authorities “are telling us he’s no longer a person of interest,” the Herald reported.
Alharbi’s reported deportation is reminiscent of the high-ranking Saudis, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, who were precipitously airlifted back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11, even as U.S. airways were shut down. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks came from the Islamic kingdom.
The developments in Alharbi’s case came as President Obama met Wednesday with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in a meeting that was not on Obama’s public schedule. The previous day, a meeting Secretary of State John Kerry held with the Saudi foreign minister was abruptly closed to press coverage.
Steve Emerson of the Investigative News Project, who was first to report that Alharbi was set to be deported, said in a Fox News interview that it’s “the way things are done with Saudi Arabia.”
“You don’t arrest their citizens. You deport them, because they don’t want them to be embarrassed, and that’s the way we appease them.”