Editor’s note: Be sure to see the important update at the bottom of this story. TheBlaze’s Jonathon M. Seidl contributed to this report.
Was Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, the much-discussed Saudi national once identified as a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombings, at the White House for a 4th of July celebration for military heros and their families?
Apparent pictures posted on the Internet and a Saudi news outlet say yes.
A Twitter feed appears to show photos of the young man posing before the edifice – decorated with red, white, and blue banners to celebrate the holiday – in addition to close-up photos of the first couple.
They come from the Twitter account of an individual claiming to be Alharbi’s father, though that information has not been confirmed.
According to a professional translation of the account’s information, however, the given name is “‘Ali Al-Salimi Al-Harbi,” and the description reads: “Father of Abd Al-Rahman who was injured in the Boston bombings.”
The caption in the above photo, translated, reads: “We attended the celebration with my son Abd Al-Rahman and my son Issa.”
Another photo appears to show Barack and Michelle Obama greeting either someone in their group, or someone very close by.
The translated caption claims: “We greeted Obama and his wife…”
The images of Barack and Michelle Obama seem consistent with others from the day, in terms and appearance, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they are genuine.
Below is a picture from the news service Getty showing the same outfits:
Not only that, but a Reuters photo appears to show three men dressed in black suits photographing the band roughly in line with where the Saudi family’s Twitter pictures place them. Their surroundings — down to the outfits of the individuals they’re standing next to — appear to align in both the Twitter and Reuters images, as well.
First, a photo from the Twitter account:
Now, the Reuters image:
And a close-up:
Though it’s difficult to see the details above, at full-size, one can make out that to the left of the suited men is an individual in a bright purple shirt, another in a turquoise shirt, and one in a blue and white shirt — as seen in the Twitter image. You can see a larger version of the Reuters picture by clicking on the above image.
So why would the Alharbi family have been at the White House for Independence Day?
According to some Arabic-language media, they were invited.
A recent post from the Twitter account in question links to a July 6 report from Al-Hayat – a widely-read pan-Arab daily newspaper – with the comment: “Today [Saturday] the Al-Hayat newspaper published a news item stating that Abd Al-Rahman and his family had been invited by the White House to participate in America’s Independence Day celebrations.” [Emphasis added]
A number of lingering questions remain on the issue, though the White House has not responded to TheBlaze’s inquiries.
First, was the Independence Day event actually by invitation-only? Or, could anyone have their photograph taken on the lawn? If the party wasn’t by invitation-only, was the guest list at least pre-screened?
A White House pool report from the day indicates that the event was closed to the public, reading: “The President and First Lady [celebrated] the 4th by hosting ‘military heroes and their families’ along with administration staff and families at a White House barbecue and concert on the South Lawn.”
President Obama’s public remarks also say he spent the day with “a few hundred members of the military and their families.”
So is the story that they were invited to a celebration honoring military heroes a fabrication? Or if the claims and photos are genuine – why did they receive an invitation?
It is possible victims of the Boston Marathon bombing were also among the invitees, but TheBlaze found no reports of mass invitations. If that was the justification, Alharbi seemingly would have had to have been part of a selected group.
And if Alharbi truly was there, it wouldn’t be the first time Saudi outlets are reporting he has been close to the First Lady. According to reports in April, the First Lady visited the young Saudi in the hospital — and alleged pictures surfaced days later.
Not only was Alharbi named a “person of interest” in the Boston bombings, he was reportedly set for deportation on 212 (3)(B) grounds – “security and related grounds” — “Terrorist activities” — after the tragedy.
Sources told TheBlaze his file was altered on the evening of April 17 to disassociate him from the initial charges, and according to Glenn Beck, “someone later went in and tried to destroy both the original event file and an amended version.”
Even if he was invited, the fact that someone who is not an American soldier was there could spark interest.
UPDATE: A law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation into the Boston Marathon Bombing has confirmed to TheBlaze that the person in the photo is Alharbi.