They were students at the University of Arkansas. Cooler heads decided there was nothing to worry about.
According to the Department of Emergency Management, the students e-mailed the school Sept. 3 requesting driving lessons, but did not respond to a query for more information. The e-mail came from the Saudi students organization at the University of Arkansas.
But the fact that female Saudi students wanted to learn how to drive — which is prohibited in their country — was not deemed a credible threat by any of the agencies that ADEM contacted about the driving school's report. That would be the Department of Homeland Security, the ATF, the TSA, FEMA, the FBI and the Secret Service. (See jump for text of DEM report.)
Kimma Harper, president of the driving academy, declined to talk to the Times right away, saying she needed to check with someone and call back. We also couldn't reach any of the Saudi students. We don't know yet if any lessons have begun.
Chad Stover, the public information officers for ADEM, said it was probably the number involved that triggered the threat message. He said the checklist that ADEM uses before it issues such an alert does not use nationality as a trigger. He said the duty officers who take the calls take into account the concerns of the caller. "If they were worried about 20 Baptists [for example], we would have gotten involved in the same way," he said.
"We would encourage people to get driving lessons," he said.
TEXT OF EMAIL SENT TO ARKANSAS LAW AGENCIES BY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Public Threat - General Benton Co
The Driving Academy of Northwest Arkansas reported 20 Saudi Arabian women are requesting to learn how to drive. She received an email requesting driving training on September 3. She replied back on September 5 stating she had some questions for them. They haven't answered back. They stated in their request that they are with the Saudi Students Organization at University of Arkansas. (Notified: Local Coordinator, Area Coordinator, Deputy Director, Director, Hazmat Program Manager, PIO, Fusion Center, ATF, Department of Homeland Security Protective Security Adviser, ESF 2, ESF 8, FBI, FEMA Region VI, JTTF, TSA, U.S. Secret Service)