It has been 9 days since an Amsterdam to Mexico City KLM flight was denied access to US airspace because two Saudi passengers aboard turned up on the US terror watch list.
The flight, carrying 278 passengers, returned to Amsterdam, Koster said. He told The Associated Press that on Saturday, a flight without the two listed passengers departed Amsterdam and arrived in Mexico City.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI decided to bar the flight because of security concerns involving certain passengers, said Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Andrea McCauley. She would not elaborate.
When the flight arrived in Amsterdam the two suspect passengers were released.
The suspected passengers were not arrested on their return to the Netherlands because Dutch authorities saw no reason to detain them, the ANP news agency reported.
The April 25 issue of Newsweek Magazine provides elaboration the TAS official failed to give at the time.
Washington’s concern about the KLM flight seems legitimate: in the past year, U.S. counterterrorism officials have cited intelligence indicating that Al Qaeda might be planning to use foreign-based airliners to launch attacks against the U.S. homeland. One U.S. counterterrorism official told NEWSWEEK that the two passengers were “bad dudes.” And a European intelligence official said the two have “extensive but secondary” links to Al Qaeda.
At least one of the two Saudis had previously been deported from the United States, according to Homeland Security sources. A former neighbor in Arizona, who asked to remain anonymous, recalled that federal officials in full body armor rushed the Saudi’s empty house several weeks after 9/11 and later arrested him. During FBI questioning, a law-enforcement official told NEWSWEEK, the Saudi acknowledged knowing [9/11 hijacker] Hani Hanjour. Upon further questioning, he also conceded that he had known another of the 9/11 hijackers.
Newsweek also reports their story for travel to Mexico – to visit their ill father, a retired Saudi diplomat living in Mexico – was backed up by the Saudi Foreign Ministry.
Was it another attempt to strike the US? Very hard to tell and Newsweek is calling the known facts “ambiguous” and declined to publish their names. They also note previous administration comments expressing concern terrorists could easily infiltrate the US/Mexican border as reason for the extra scrutiny.
Ambiguous may be an accurate description, but ill father be dammed, “extensive but secondary” links to Al Qaeda should be enough to err on the side of caution.