Report: Breakdowns in vetting system allowed NAS Pensacola shooter into U.S.

NAS Pensacola Shooting

(WKRG) — A new report from the New York Times has revealed several lapses in the vetting process that allowed NAS Pensacola shooter Mohammed Alshamrani into the United States.

Alshamrani opened fire at the naval station in December, killing three sailors and wounding eight others before Escambia County deputies fatally shot him.

The review from the New York Times revealed “lapses far more extensive than previously known in how international military students are selected, screened and monitored once in the United States.”

The paper reported that breakdowns in vetting systems in the United States and Saudi Arabia occurred at virtually every step of the way. After reviewing government records and interviews with more than two dozen current and former American officials and friends and relatives of Alshamrani, The Times found four examples of how the system failed and allowed Alshamrani into the U.S.:

  • Saudi security services failed to detect early clues from Lieutenant Alshamrani’s online life that might have disqualified him from joining the military and prevented him from receiving clearance to apply for the American training program.
  • The American vetting system operated by the State Department and the Pentagon, with access to vast U.S. intelligence and law enforcement data, failed to spot a pattern of troubling social media activity that connected him with extremist ideology.
  • An insider threat program developed by the Pentagon after the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009 and the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 did not monitor his movements and actions once the lieutenant arrived in the United States — because officials had not extended it to cover military trainees from foreign countries.
  • Lieutenant Alshamrani was in contact with Al Qaeda beginning two years before coming to the United States for training, and remained so up until the night before the shooting.

The New York Times report also says one reason Alshamrani proved so difficult to detect, American defense and intelligence officials said, was that he represented a new kind of terrorist. He was not directed start to finish by Al Qaeda, nor was he simply inspired by online jihadist ideology. Instead he more closely resembled a self-directed contractor who was strongly enabled by Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch.

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