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Pentagon: Review of Saudi military trainees finds no threats

By Darryl Coote
Pentagon: Review of Saudi military trainees finds no threats
The Pentagon said Thursday that a screening of all Saudi Arabian military trainees in the country uncovered no immediate threats to the United States. Photo by Patrick Nichols/EPA-EFE

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The Pentagon has said an initial screening of about 850 Saudi Arabian international military students training on bases in the United States found no signs that they pose any immediate threats to the country.

The screening, along with a strengthening of the vetting process of international military trainees in the United States, was ordered Dec. 10 by Defense Secretary Mark Esper after a Saudi aviation trainee opened fire in a classroom at a U.S. naval base in Pensacola, Fla., killing three people days earlier.

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Garry Reid, director for defense intelligence, counter-intelligence, law enforcement and security at the Defense Department, told reporters Thursday that the screening of international trainees' government, commercial and publicly available data turned up no indication of an imminent threat to the United States.

"We can report that no information indicating an immediate threat scenario was discovered," Reid said, adding that the purpose of the screening was to determine if any information that could "be an indicator of elevated risk" was previously overlooked in the student's initial vetting process.

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Reid said the vetting of all remaining international trainees will continue and that these new screening procedures will be used on all inbound trainees going forward.

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A report on a review of policies and procedures of the screening and vetting of international trainees will also be provided to the Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, he said.

"Looking ahead, we anticipate establishing an implementation group to oversee implementation of the recommendations, and to ensure we are revising or updating all relevant policies to sustain new methods and best security practices in the future," he said.

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Following the shooting, the Department of Defense suspended operational training of all Saudi students, which is still in place.

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