U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef in Washington, D.C., yesterday to discuss the implementation of their countries' traveler programs.
According to a joint statement between DHS and Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry, they said that they also agreed to implement a Saudi Arabian traveler program inside the United States. (See Update) "The objective will be to start implementation within the next six months with full operations starting in 2014," the statement said.
"I am proud of the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and today’s meeting marks another major step forward in our partnership," said Secretary Napolitano. "By enhancing collaboration with the Government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel."
According to the release, "Global Entry streamlines the screening process at airports for trusted travelers, allowing customs authorities to focus on those travelers they know less about, in order to more effectively identify potential threats and keep our borders and country secure."
Napolitano announced a partnership with Loews Hotels last year to help implement Global Entry. One of the hotels is located in Nashville, Tenn. The Sept. 24, 2012, press release stated:
"Currently available at 30 U.S. airports, Global Entry streamlines the screening process for trusted travelers through biometric identification and reduces average wait times by 70 percent, with more than 75 percent of travelers using Global Entry processed in under five minutes. More than a million trusted travelers now receive Global Entry benefits, and these travelers have used its automated kiosks to expedite their entry more than three million times since the program’s inception."
No information was included regarding Saudi Arabia's traveler program in the release.
Their joint statement said:
The Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (MOI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have a long history of working bilaterally and regionally to promote mutual security and economic prosperity. Both the MOI and DHS recognize that the development and promotion of these relations serves the joint interests of both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.
In effort to reaffirm the extraordinary bond between them and advance this partnership, MOI and DHS have signed an arrangement to begin implementation for each nation’s trusted traveler programs. The trusted traveler programs will facilitate trade and travel between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America and will help authorities from MOI and DHS more effectively identify potential threats to keep their borders and countries secure. The objective will be to start implementation within the next six months with full operations starting
In addition, MOI and DHS note their emerging cooperation on cybersecurity. MOI and DHS have a mutual interest in partnering to protect critical vital government and private sector critical infrastructure of binational importance, and to make cyberspace more secure for citizens of both countries. Given the significance of each nation in the global economy, this partnership also contributes to global security.
Finally, MOI and DHS highlight the continuing effort in combating international security challenges in the areas of cyber crimes, physical infrastructure protection, and maritime security through the joint Office of Program Management-Ministry of Interior (OPM-MOI) initiative. These areas signal further the strong bond between MOI and DHS and recognize the vital importance for both of cooperation in the security field.
Update: In a Jan. 18 email, when asked if Saudi Arabia's traveler program would be used in the US for passengers traveling to their country, DHS Director of Communications Matt Chandler said:
"The Department of Homeland Security and the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed an arrangement to begin discussions towards implementation of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trusted traveler program, Global Entry, in Saudi Arabia, and initiate discussions to establish a reciprocal program to facilitate processing of travelers upon arrival in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents who are enrolled in Global Entry."
The way the statement was written gave the impression that their program would be used in the US, but according to Chandler, Global Entry will be used in Saudi Arabia, presumably for those who are bound for the US. And Saudi Arabia's program would be used on those entering their kingdom, in their kingdom, not in the US.