Why was Saudi national Alharbi tagged as 2123b for terrorist activity?

Photo: TheBlaze

It’s been nearly a week since Glenn Beck first revealed additional information about Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, the Saudi national briefly considered a person of interest in the Boston Marathon bombing. According to Blaze sources, Alharbi was tagged as a 212(a)(3)(B) — the U.S. immigration designation for “terrorist activities.”

In the last week, TheBlaze has learned (among other things) that Alharbi’s event file was altered last Wednesday, two days after the bombings, and the 212(a)(3)(B) designation was removed; that Alharbi was, in fact, placed on a watch list after the attack; that he was at one time listed as “armed and dangerous”; and that he was not properly vetted before he was allowed into the country under a “special advisory option.”

Despite those revelations, here are four major questions remaining about Alharbi:

1. What was the evidence that triggered the 212(a)(3)(B) filing?

There is nothing automatic about a 212(a)(3)(b) filing. Every piece of information must be manually entered, line by line, and the decision cannot made by any single person or even a “rogue agent.” Simply being on a no-fly list is not enough to trigger a 212(a)(3)(b). One source told TheBlaze that even in one case where the filing was ultimately incorrect, it still took six months to remove.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did not address Alharbi’s 212(a)(3)(b) status during a House hearing this week. She admitted that the Saudi national was temporarily put on a watch list while he was interviewed following the Boston bombings, but added it was quickly determined Alharbi was not involved in the attack. The DHS head did not indicate that any other information was uncovered that identified Alharbi as a potential terror threat.

The question for the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement is, what did you find that was so damning that you included such a designation in the file? Or is there another explanation for including it?

2. Why was Alharbi not fully vetted upon entering the United States?

Alharbi was admitted to the United States under a “special advisory option,” generally reserved for visiting politicians and diplomats. Who is he that he was permitted entry without a full vetting?

3. Why the continuing secrecy?

If this Alharbi is innocent and this has been one big misunderstanding, why won’t the Department of Homeland Security publicly come forward to clear everything up?

4. ​Where is Alharbi now?

No one has publicly admitted they know where Alharbi is. Is he still in the United States? Is he back in Saudi Arabia? Where is he now?

 

A more complete understanding

In order to understand the 212(a)(3)(b) better, TheBlaze spoke with Bob Trent, a retired senior special agent for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He revealed yet another twist, telling us on Friday that 212(a)(3)(b) is not a deportation charge, but an immigration designation meant to block dangerous individuals from ever entering the United States.

That makes sense when looking at the relevant section on the Department of Justice’s website. There, the section is listed under Inadmissibility” and preceded by the sentence, “Except as otherwise provided in this Act, aliens who are inadmissible under the following paragraphs are ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted to the United States.” [Emphasis added.]

Why was Saudi national Alharbi tagged as 2123b for terrorist activity?

The official definition of a 212(a)(3)(b) designation from the Justice Department website.

Trent said that if Alharbi was tagged as a 212(a)(3)(b) the day of the bombing, it could have been done in haste, perhaps by FBI agents who didn’t understand immigration law and didn’t realize that applying that label essentially meant Alharbi should never have been admitted into the U.S. in the first place. He said that if an immigration agent discovered the mistake, that could explain its quick removal and subsequent attempts to try and make the possible blunder go away.

But Trent doesn’t believe it was a simple mistake — he thinks it’s more likely that the 212(a)(3)(b) was in place while Alharbi was still in Saudi Arabia, but that someone stepped in to expedite his entry into the U.S.

“Either they screwed up and they picked 212 because they didn’t really know any better, or that file was opened before he ever came as a student…he should never have been allowed in and they only way they got around it is because they did some sort of expedited or direct call from, say, the White House or from State Department,” he theorized.

Trent said, “The whole things says they had a case on him already before he ever came here, and there was just a massive amount of foul-ups, political pressure to let this kid come in. They want to squash it because they don’t want to show how vulnerable we were.”

But since TheBlaze can’t get a complete, full answer from the government, those questions remain.

​TheBlaze’s Jonathon M. Seidl contributed to this report.