The Pentagon on Tuesday ordered a broad review of vetting procedures for international students who participate in training on US military installations and demanded the process be strengthened, in direct reaction to last week's deadly shooting at a Pensacola Navy base by a Saudi aviation student. The memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist also suspends flight and other operational training for all Saudi Arabian students in US military programs, the AP reports. It follows a decision by the US Navy to halt flight training for more than 300 Saudi Arabian students at the Pensacola Naval Air Station and two other bases in Florida. The FBI confirmed Tuesday that the 21-year-old Saudi Air Force officer who killed three US sailors and injured eight other people at the Pensacola base on Friday legally bought the 9mm Glock pistol he used. Investigators are digging into whether 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani acted alone, amid reports he hosted a party earlier last week where he and others watched videos of mass shootings.
The incident has raised questions about how well international military students are screened before they attend training at American bases. Norquist's memo says the review of the vetting must be completed in 10 days, and the flight restrictions will continue throughout the review and until they are lifted by senior leaders. US officials said the flight restrictions were not triggered because there are indications of any broader problems or conspiracy fears related to Saudi students or the shooting. They said it was more because the shooting suggested some possible vetting problems associated with Saudi Arabia that will be reviewed. Norquist said the US is working closely with Saudi officials in the response to the shooting. The Pentagon has said that about 850 Saudi students are currently in US military training programs. US officials told reporters on Tuesday that they aren't sure how many of those would see some type of flight or other restriction, but many will. (Click for more, including details on the current screening process.)