US military bases were put on alert after the Pensacola navy base shooting — and there will now be a major review into how foreign nationals on military exchange programs are vetted, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Sunday.
“One of the first things I did in the wake of this incident was … immediately put out an advisory to all of our bases, installations and facilities,” Esper told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
The advisory was to insist that “all necessary precautions” were being made “to make sure our people are safe and secure” after the attack that killed three US Navy students.
Esper was referring to the Pentagon programs that train more than 5,000 foreign nationals, including 852 Saudis such as the Pensacola killer, Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.
“I asked that we begin a review of what our screening procedures are with regard to foreign nationals coming to the United States,” Esper told Fox.
“My understanding is currently they’re reviewed by the Department of State, they’re reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security and they’re reviewed by us, and I want to make sure that those procedures are full and sufficient.”
However, he stressed that the programs are “very important to our national security.”
“The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us to building those long term relationships that keep us safer,” he said.
“All of those things helped us understand one another and build close partnerships and we need to continue that,” he told Wallace.
Esper, who has been criticized for not labeling the attack a terrorist incident, confirmed reports that some of the killer’s friends were detained, reportedly after filming the shooting.
“Some were detained, friends of his that were also on that base,” Esper said. “I also was told that some — one or two — were filming it.
“What’s unclear is were they filming it before it began, or was it something where they picked up their phones and filmed it once they saw it unfolding,” he stressed.
“Today, people pull out their phones and film anything and everything that happens,” he said, insisting he was “not trying to pass a judgment” until after a full investigation.
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