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DOJ Finds Pensacola Attack 'Act of Terrorism;' New Rules for Foreign Military Students

Jan. 17, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

The results of a Justice Department investigation into the Dec. 6 attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, were released this week and investigators have declared the attack was an act of terrorism.

Garry Reid, the director for defense intelligence, spoke with reporters today via conference call to spell out what DOJ investigators found and what new rules the Defense Department will implement as a result of the attack.

"The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology and the DOJ concluded that this was an act of terrorism," Reid said.

Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi air force, was attending aviation training at NAS Pensacola. On Dec. 6, he opened fire in a classroom. The attack killed three U.S. service members and wounded another eight.

Reid said DOJ investigators found no evidence of assistance or preknowledge of the attack by other members of the Saudi military who were involved in training. However, the investigation found "derogatory material" was possessed by 21 of the students.

"The relevant U.S. attorney's offices independently reviewed each of the 21 cases involving derogatory information and determined that none of them would in the normal course result in federal prosecution," Reid said.

All of those students have since been returned to Saudi Arabia, Reid said. "Our service secretaries and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency determined that these international military students failed to meet the professional standards expected of students participating in our foreign military training programs."

A line of military personnel stand behind a long table and fire hand guns.
Firearms Training
Foreign students try out a firearms training simulator at Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit, Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., Sept. 10, 2019.
Photo By: Brian Walsh, Navy
VIRIN: 180910-N-BN978-045

In the aftermath of the attack at Pensacola, new policies and security procedures have been put in place to prevent any further such attacks, Reid said.

The new restrictions relate to the possession and use of firearms by international students, for instance, and also implement control measures to limit access to only those military and government facilities necessary for the training they are involved in.

A forign service member aims a pistol.  Another watches
Pistol Aim
Indonesian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Burhannanda Inggil Pibadhi fires a simulated 9mm pistol at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., while Petty Officer 1st Class David Stevens observes.
Photo By: Scott A. Thornbloom, Navy
VIRIN: 121001-N-IK959-705

"We will also impose new standards for training and education on detecting and reporting insider threats and establish new vetting procedures that include capabilities for continuous monitoring of international military students while enrolled in U.S.-based training programs," Reid said.

Going forward, Reid said, current and future students will need to acknowledge their willingness to comply with the new standards and with U.S. law on and off duty, in order to embark on training in the U.S.

Five military personnel stand in line, each holds a blue folder.
Course Grads
Students from the Royal Saudi Navy graduate from a course offered by the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity International Training Center at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., Sept. 27, 2019.
Photo By: Carla McCarthy, Navy
VIRIN: 180927-N-PU674-0004

Once the new policies are in place, Reid said, military departments will be able to resume training activities with foreign students inside the U.S.