Pentagon to place new restrictions, monitoring on foreign military students

Pentagon to place new restrictions, monitoring on foreign military students
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The Defense Department announced Friday that it will implement new guidelines for vetting foreign students attending U.S. military programs and impose new restrictions following last month's deadly shooting at an air base in Pensacola, Fla.

The new restrictions include banning international military students from possessing firearms and limiting access to government property and travel while off duty. The new guidelines come after 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force, opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Dec. 6, killing three sailors and wounding eight others.

“Going forward we will put several new policies and security procedures in place to protect our people, programs, and installations. These include new restrictions on international military students for possession and use of firearms, and control measures for limiting their access to military installations and U.S. government facilities,” Director for Defense Intelligence Garry Reid told reporters.

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Reid added that the Pentagon will also put in place new training and education standards in order to detect and encourage reporting of possible insider threats, and establish new vetting procedures that include continuous monitoring of international military students while they are enrolled in U.S.-based training programs.

Trainees will also now be continuously monitored on social media platforms and restricted in terms of how far they can travel from where they train without prior written approval, something that will be determined by local commanders, a senior Pentagon official told reporters.

Current and future foreign students must acknowledge and abide by the new standards as a condition of their enrollment.

Once the new protocols are in place, military departments “will be authorized to fully resume the training that has been suspended since the attack in Pensacola," Reid said.

The Defense Department’s new rules came about after a security review triggered by the shooting, which Trump administration officials have called an act of terrorism.

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Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Key juror questioned in Roger Stone case MORE announced Monday that while the investigation found no evidence that other members of the Saudi military had knowledge of Alshamrani's intentions, 21 of the 852 Saudi military members training in the U.S. would be unenrolled and returned home over other revelations produced by the probe. Twelve of those students were stationed at the air base in Pensacola.

Reid also acknowledged that “there was no evidence of assistance or pre-knowledge of the attack by other members of the Saudi military (or any other foreign nationals) who are training in the United States,” but that during Alshamrani’s investigation “we learned of derogatory material possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who are training here in the United States.”

Training for the Saudi students, which has been restricted to the classroom since the shooting, is still on hold, though chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that the military expects to soon resume their operational training.

About 5,180 foreign students are in the U.S. for military training, and the Pentagon has trained more than 1 million such students since the program began.