Several dozen FB.I. agents and New York Police Department detectives have been working to learn everything they can about the visit to New York City, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Investigators believe that the aviation students were in New York for about four days; the agents and detectives have been trying to determine precisely where they went during that time, a process that has involved tracing their movements through credit cards, surveillance video and other means, the person said.
Several other Saudis on the Pensacola base were detained for questioning after the shooting. One of them, who had been at the scene of the shooting with two others, had recorded the chaotic scene in front of the classroom building where the shooting took place.
The attack may strain U.S.-Saudi relations.
After the attack, President Trump tried to tamp down any suggestion that the Saudi government needed to be held to account. Mr. Trump announced on Twitter that he had received a condolence call from King Salman of Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, he told reporters that “they are devastated in Saudi Arabia,” noting that “the king will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones.” Mr. Trump did not use the word “terrorism.”
What was missing was any assurance that the Saudis would aid in the investigation, help identify the suspect’s motives, or answer the many questions about the vetting process for a coveted slot at one of the United States’ premier schools for training allied officers. Or, more broadly, why the United States continues to train members of the Saudi military, which has been accused of repeated human rights abuses in Yemen.
“The attack is a disaster for an already deeply strained relationship,” Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former C.I.A. officer who has dealt with generations of Saudi leaders, said on Saturday. It “focuses attention on Americans training Saudi Air Force officers who are engaged in numerous bombings of innocents in Yemen, which is the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world,” Mr. Riedel said, noting that the Trump administration had been fighting efforts in Congress to end American support for that war.
For the White House, the calculus is simple: Saudi Arabia is critical to the world’s oil supplies — though no longer to the United States’ — and it is the only Gulf power willing and able to counter Iran. Former members of the Trump administration say that as a result, the administration has been dismissive of any critiques that could weaken ties between Washington and Riyadh.