(The Center Square) – Floridians still don’t have justice, something their congressman asked President Joe Biden to bring them ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia.
Instead, family members of Navy servicemen got fist bumps between the president and Saudi leaders, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, told The Center Square.
“Fist bumps with the Saudis don’t convey a sense of seriousness in seeking justice for the victims of the NAS Pensacola attack on U.S. soil,” he told The Center Square. “Joe Biden’s visit did nothing to reinforce American resilience. It only proved how fast he’s willing to kneel to the Saudis in order to prevent American independence from foreign reliance.”
Gaetz called on Biden to demand accountability of the Saudis when he went there to ask them to produce more crude as his administration continues to restrict domestic production and gas prices remain high.
Biden shared a fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when greeting the ruler he once vowed to shun for alleged human rights violations. He also left with no answers for Floridians and no oil deal with the Saudis.
While human rights groups had asked him to hold accountable the Saudis who were allegedly involved in the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Gaetz has demanded accountability for Floridians killed by a Saudi national since Dec. 6, 2019.
One day before the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, a flight student and 21-year-old member of the Saudi Royal Air Force, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, opened fire at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. He killed three sailors and injured several others before he was shot dead by Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
At the time, King Salmon expressed his condolences and former President Donald Trump tweeted “the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”
This was the second attack against Americans on U.S. soil by Saudi nationals since 9/11. The Trump administration declassified intelligence documents including FBI files that indicated “Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi provided ‘substantial assistance’ to Saudi hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hamzi,” the New York Post reported. Hamzi allegedly led the cell that attacked the Pentagon, according to intelligence reports.
“Bayoumi received funding from a Saudi defense front company tied to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, where he worked as a ghost employee,” the Post reported, as well as “‘a significant amount of cash’ from another ‘member of the Saudi Royal Family.’”
A heavily redacted 28 pages of the 911 Commission’s report was also declassified. In it, the commission warned, “Saudi government officials in the United States may have other ties to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
Years later, sailors in Florida were murdered by Alshamrani, raising questions about the vetting process of foreign nationals training at U.S. military bases.
Alshamrani was part of a contingent of 852 Saudi nationals training in the U.S., the Defense Department confirmed at the time.
Ever since then, Gaetz has been working with federal agencies to ensure that foreign nationals training with the U.S. military are properly vetted. After an investigation, it became clear that Alshamrani hadn’t been, Gaetz said.
In a recent op-ed published by the Pensacola News Journal, he argued Alshamrani “was supposed to have been properly vetted by the Saudis. He wasn’t. They were supposed to have engaged in rigorous oversight and monitoring of their students. They didn’t. Immediately after the attack, the Saudis promised me they’d pay financially for the ruin their servicemember caused. They haven’t – and are now fighting against our survivors in federal court.”
“Not lost on Northwest Floridians are the ugliest consequences of the U.S.-Saudi ‘friendship.’ True friends don’t let dangerous people in your home,” he warned.
Last fall, Biden signed an executive order that led to the FBI releasing hundreds of pages of declassified documents, indicating that some in the Saudi government were allegedly involved with the Sept. 11 attacks, CBS News reported.
Andrew Maloney, an attorney representing family members of Americans killed on 9/11, released a statement saying the FBI had "released a substantial amount of very incriminating documents regarding the Saudi government's role in helping al Qaeda and these two hijackers in particular."
The family members asked CBS News, which published video footage of the hijackers with Bayoumi, "Will the Justice Department now explain to the families and to America why they did not pursue charges against (Saudi national Omar) al-Bayoumi? And most astonishingly, why did this information come from the U.K. government and not our own FBI?"
Gaetz is still asking the president to insist that Saudi Arabia “neutralize” those in its government that support terrorism. He’s called on the Saudis to shut down madrasas that “incite hatred,” and to stop fighting the jurisdiction of U.S. courts in lawsuits filed by victims and survivors seeking compensation from the oil-rich country.
He says he hasn’t gotten a response from Biden or the Saudis.
“Biden must not forget what happened in Pensacola, or it will happen again,” Gaetz warns.