The news that the deceased suspect of this morning’s horrific shooting spree at Naval Air Station Pensacola was a Saudi aviation student here to train with the Saudi military ought to serve as a wakeup call for American elected officials.
The suspect appears to have been a student officer with the Saudi Air Force and, while it is unclear right now which U.S. visa he obtained to arrive here, an A-2 visa — described by the U.S. State Department as appropriate for those “traveling to the United States on behalf of [his/her] national government to engage solely in official activities for that government” — is perhaps likely . As The Daily Wire has reported, there are at least ten victims injured, including three dead.
There is a lot to unpack and unravel here — especially for those of us who have generally encouraged closer U.S.-Saudi military ties in order to help deter the far greater Middle East terrorism threat, Iran. This developing story has many moving parts, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ought to be prepared for a Jamal Khashoggi-level public relations blowback when even a stalwart pro-Israel/anti-Iran conservative such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has an immediate reaction that the Saudi government “needs to [financially] make things better for these victims.” Indeed, it is hard to disagree with the governor.
But the focus here must be on immigration policy. As The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra already reported, hardline conservative Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has opined that today’s naval base tragedy “represents a serious failure in the vetting process and in the way in which we invite … people into our community.” Gaetz vowed to help “ensure that we have extreme vetting for the people that come into our country on our bases and in our communities.”
This is obviously correct. And it is important that this, and not a short-sighted hard diplomatic pivot away from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at a time when the uniquely evil Iranian regime is yet again on the proverbial ropes and facing an increasingly restive population, become the preeminent takeaway from today’s horrific incident.
Why, as I lamented on the most recent anniversary of the 9/11 jihadist attacks, has the U.S. continued to implement an exceedingly generous and lax immigration policy for prospective immigrants from the broader Islamic world? While there will always be dispensations for legal immigration from the Islamic world, why are we not starting from a default baseline level of effectively zero? Our much-ballyhooed “vetting” procedures are oftentimes, as was tragically the case today, revealed to be exceedingly inadequate. But hey, in fairness, how would we ever have known to keep a close eye on Saudi aviation students? It’s not like we’ve had previous noteworthy incidents, right?
Policymakers ought to heed the unassailable wisdom of the 9/11 Commission Report: “It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country.” Heck, does anyone even remember that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, according to former CIA contractor James Mitchell, allegedly believes that “the ‘practical’ way to defeat America [is] through immigration?”
Immigration policy is national security policy. And that extends to both illegal immigration and legal immigration. Our policymakers ought to not forget that.