WASHINGTON – Men in the United States who are from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will be required to register with the government under a program intended to fingerprint and photograph those from countries considered high risk for terrorists.
The addition Monday of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan brings to 20 the number of countries covered under the registration program, which has drawn sharp criticism from Muslim activist groups as heavy-handed and unlikely to identify any terrorists.
Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are considered U.S. allies in the war on terror, but both also have had questions raised about their levels of commitment. In particular, Saudi Arabia recently was put on the defensive against allegations it was doing a poor job of disrupting terrorist financing and even may have inadvertently made payments to one of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers.
The latest registration notice affects males from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan who are age 16 or older and entered the United States on or before Sept. 30, 2002. If they plan to stay in the United States into late February, they will have until Feb. 21, 2003, to register and provide documentation to the Immigration and Naturalization Service about their visit.
The announcement coincides with a deadline Monday for registration for a similar program affecting men from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Men from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen face a registration deadline of Jan. 10.
Those who fail to register can be deported. The program does not affect permanent residents, men with INS "green cards," or to naturalized citizens from those countries. Diplomats also are excluded, as well as those seeking or already granted political asylum in the United States.
Women and children were excluded because their numbers would have made the program impossible to administer, Justice Department officials say.