Saudi fugitives get help from Saudi diplomats in U.S., ProPublica reports
On Friday, April 24, ProPublica and The Oregonian/OregonLive published results of a collaborative investigation, which shows that Saudi citizens, typically students enrolled at American universities, routinely evaded justice for rape, manslaughter, child pornography, embezzlement and various forms of abuse.
Since 1988, there are at least 20 cases of Saudi students who fled the U.S. and Canada while awaiting trial. The U.S. government is aware of the problem and for years has chosen to not react – all in the name of opposing Iran and fighting Sunni terrorism.
When looking back, it is not clear what made Saudi Arabia the strategic ally in the Middle East and what is an origin of the almost 20-year-old preference over its regional rival, Iran. Eleven out of 15 terrorists responsible for 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens, and the 9/11 commission was concern with visa screening processes of Saudi students years ago, when it first published its official report.
After establishing the U.S.-Saudi alliance in fighting terrorism, first Al-Qaeda, later on – ISIS, the Saudi government did everything it could in order to open American universities for Saudi students. In 2005, there were 5,000 of them in America 10 years later this number increased to 80,000. It takes less than 10 days for a Saudi student to get a visa and leave for America on a Saudi government scholarship. Screening processes are kept to minimal.
“Department of Homeland Security analysts identified several Saudi officials who had assisted in the repatriation efforts while working out of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, a government agency that both supports and monitors Saudi students in the United States,” ProPublica wrote. “At least some of the officials at the Cultural Mission appeared to be intelligence officers working undercover, the former senior official said.”
Within his reluctant foreign policy, former President Barrack Obama came to one important conclusion supported by tons of evidence scattered across various U.S. agencies. Not that Iran is good, contrary to Obama’s critics, but that Saudis are not better. Hence, looking for balance that took the form of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The Pro Publica piece revealed that U.S. officials in the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security were aware of problems with Saudi students studying in the U.S. Oregon was shocked by a story of a Portland girl killed by a Saudi student who had been speeding in his car. While awaiting trial, he fled the country after providing $1 million bail. He soon resurfaced in Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that he had help. It is close to impossible to flee the United States as an individual when one’s passport is ceased by a U.S. court.
The Trump administration seems to promise even more indulgences to Saudis, currently pointing out that it has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia. It is enough to recall murdered and dismembered journalist and American green card holder Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder in a Saudi embassy in Turkey was ordered by Saudi leader Mohammad Bin Salman.
According to its website, over 750 Saudi students are enrolled at Arizona State University.
The story was reported by Sebastian Rotella and Tim Golden, ProPublica with Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, The Oregonian/OregonLive.