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

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 17, 2020) -- 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 pre-knowledge 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."

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.

"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.

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.