Janet Napolitano’s Major Admission: Saudi Student Was Put on Watchlist

Napolitano Responds to Grassley Questions About Saudi National Questioned in Boston Bombings

(Photo: C-SPAN)

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano admitted Tuesday that a Saudi national once identified as a "person of interest" in the Boston Marathon bombings was put on a terror watchlist after the attack.

Last week, she refused to answer any questions about the Saudi, calling South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan's inquiry "so full of misstatements and misapprehension that it's just not worthy of an answer."

But today, speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, Napolitano responded to a question posed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

"Before the [Tsarnaev] brothers became the focus of the investigation, authorities questioned a Saudi student who reportedly was on a terror watchlist," Grassley said. "I sent a letter to you this morning asking for answers to questions about the bombers and how they interacted with your agency, I trust you will promptly respond..."

"With regard to the Saudi student, was he on a watchlist, and if so, how did he obtain a student visa?" Grassley asked.

Napolitano firmly responded: "He was not on a watchlist. What happened is -- this student was, really when you back it out, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was never a subject. He was never even really a person of interest. Because he was being interviewed, he was at that point put on a watchlist, and then when it was quickly determined he had nothing to do with the bombing, the watch listing status was removed." [Emphasis added]

Watch the entire interaction via C-SPAN below (if the video doesn't load right away, hit refresh):

The Saudi national, identified as Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, was set to be deported for terrorist activity under section 212, 3B after the Boston Marathon bombings, according to TheBlaze's sources. His status was abruptly changed last week, but government officials have thus far rarely spoken in public about the subject, let alone provided any additional information.

But Napolitano's account today confirms a report by TheBlaze on Monday. It details how a Department of Homeland Security official told us that Alharbi was placed on a terror watchlist after being detained.

However, Napolitano has thus far refused to comment on why Alharbi was given the Section 212, 3B terrorist designation despite inquiries from Sen. Grassley and members of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Alharbi is currently considered innocent and in no way connected to the Boston bombings, or the two brothers identified as suspects by the FBI.

It was a rough day on the hill for Napolitano as she was also grilled by lawmakers regarding the conflicting accounts of whether the FBI knew the older Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had made a trip to Russia.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was particularly concerned about the conflicting reports coming from the FBI and DHS about the older suspect's Russia trip. He told Napolitano "They told me that they had no knowledge of him leaving or coming back so I would like to talk to you more about this case."

This is a breaking news story. Updates may be added.