Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Hijacker Express Lane

June 2001: as secret US-Taliban diplomacy devolves into threats of war, an increasing number of foreign intelligence warnings from Germany, Egypt, Russia, Afghanistan, etc. pour in about impending al Qaeda attacks in the US. As the last of the to-be 9-11 “muscle” hijackers enter the United States from Saudi Arabia, the State Department office there starts a little-known one-way “exchange” program called “U.S. Visa Express.” [1] Part of the long-standing friendship between the U.S. and the Saudi kingdom, it was designed to cut down on long lines, allowing Saudi citizens to enter the country without having to be interviewed at a U.S. embassy. [2] At least three of the nineteen hijackers: Abdulaziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almidhar all used the Visa Express program to enter the country. [3]

But this was only part of a wider pattern of (negligence?) regarding Saudi Arabia that allowed in even more of the suspects. Another twelve, all but one of the “muscle” hijackers and Hani Hanjour, the alleged pilot of flight 77, entered the U.S. through the Kingdom’s wide-open door. Sydney Freedburg at the St. Petersburg Times re-traced the 15’s legal journeys to the US and narrowed the troubles down to two State Dept. offices in the Kingdom. “Some of the hijackers got tourist visas to come here after reportedly honing their explosives skills at terrorist training camps in Afghanistan,” Freedburg noted, and at least two, and possibly as many as nine, used stolen passports. He further summarized:

“They exploited a litany of loopholes in the system: Several didn't need an interview for permission to come here. […] Two were later placed on a terrorist watch list, but no one could find them. […] All 19 managed to get U.S. Social Security cards. inadvertently, the U.S. government rolled out a welcome mat for all of them.” [4]

Here, the word “inadvertently” must be momentarily suspended – since intentions are never that clear, let’s just settle for “the U.S. government rolled out a welcome mat for all of them.” ABC News reported in October, 2002 “none of the 15 applications reviewed was filled out properly.” Brothers Wail and Waleed Alshehri applied in mid-2000, listing their occupations as "teater" and “student.” Headed to beautiful scenic "Wasantwn," their Visas were approved.” [5]

These applications were largely handled through the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, which has a history of such openness, Freedburg noted. While serving as a consular officer in Jeddah from 1987 to 1989, Michael Springmann “said he issued more than 100 visas to unqualified applicants after pressure from his State Department bosses. ‘Keep the Saudis happy,’ Springmann said he was told, apparently because they are America's biggest supplier of crude oil.” [6]

Freedburg added the “apparently” part, but Springman himself has actually cited a different reason for “keeping the Saudis happy:” they were, at the time, our biggest supplier of terrorists. In another interview, Springmann told BBC Newsnight and CBC’s Radio One that during his tenure he witnessed the operation of a terrorist “pipeline,” sponsored by the CIA:

“(The) CIA was recruiting terrorists to fight against the then Soviets… I was repeatedly ordered by high-level State Department officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants. These were people who had no ties to either Saudi Arabia or to their own country… Afghanistan was the end user of their facilities. They were coming to the US for training as terrorists. The countries that had supplied them did not want them back.” [7]

Springmann’s testimony paints a picture of an office that served as a conduit, supplying the “end user,” the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet invaders, with a constant stream of undesirables from diverse nations. These same men were then armed and trained and formed connections with each other. After the Jihad, they turned their energies elsewhere and things got ugly. In fact, the Blind Sheikh Omar Adbel Rahman, allegedly behind the 1993 WTC attack, may have entered New York via this pipeline with CIA approval in 1990, even after the afghan Jihad was over – indicating continued CIA cooperation with the al Qaeda nexus after ties were officially cut.

But even before that Springmann didn’t like what he saw, and complained about it to his superiors. As he left the scene, and for years after, he believed his complaints had shut the “pipeline” down. But after 9-11, he has serious doubts that that was ever the case. Over ten years later, Springmann maintains that all fifteen of the 9-11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia were handed their visas through his old consulate office in Jeddah. As we’ve seen above, it seems some were through Jeddah, the rest elsewhere, but his point remains valid.

> CBC” “so what does this suggest, that this pipeline was never rolled up, that it’s still operating?”
> Springmann: “Exactly. I thought it had been, because I’d raised sufficient hell that I thought they’d done it…”
> CBC: “If what you’re saying may be true, many of the terrorists who allegedly flew those planes into those targets, got their U.S. visas through the CIA and your U.S. consulate in Jeddah. That suggests a relationship ongoing as recently as obviously September. […] If the CIA had a relationship with the people responsible for September 11th, are you suggesting therein that they are somehow complicit?”
> Springmann: “Yes, either through omission or through failure to act… by the attempts to cover me up and shut me down, this convinced me more and more that this was not a pipe dream, this was not my imagination…” [8]

Even if the pipeline had been shut down for years, it couldn’t be terribly hard to re-open it and prop open wider with Visa Express-style de-regulation just in time to get the hijackers/patsies/dupes placed for the attack. They traveled in the open under the names the government would later assign, but their identities are nearly all tangled with those of men still alive. At least five of them (including Atta) have even been reported, as in the special September 15 2001 Newsweek, as being men trained at secure US military facilities – or at least confused by name with five such men. [9] All of the hijackers (if we exclude Moussaoui) encountered a law enforcement blind spot. Atta himself got at least two speeding tickets, one of which he refused to pay and got a warrant put out for his arrest! [10] And he issued death threats against a USDA employee when she refused to give him a $600,000 loan to buy a crop duster, remove the seats, and replace them with chemical tanks. [11] None were detained and they almost seem to have been protected by a higher power. Allah, they may have thought… There have been allegations that the hijackers were in fact covert operatives, drug runners, or something of the sort. Given the evidence, it can’t be ruled out.

Whoever the hijackers of 9/11 really were, wherever they really came from, and whoever really supported them, it was the US government that was tasked with protecting the people of this country – yet that government apparently threw open the gates to the barbarians right as they were massing for an attack. It’s not so much a matter of who they are or where they came from, but a matter of how did they get here and how did they avoid arrest? With these insights on the “welcome mat” rolled out we may have our answer… Besides, this embarrassing “bungling” by the State Dept. helped ensure that Visa applications would henceforth be handled by the new Homeland Security Department who promised no such screw-ups. [12]

[1] Schmidt, Susan and Bill Miller. . “Homeland Security Department to Oversee Visa Program.” Washington Post. August 6, 2002. Page A13. Accessed November 30, 2004 at:¬Found=true
[2] Ahmed, Nafeez Ahmed. The War on Freedom. How and why America was Attacked September 11, 2001.” Joshua tree, Ca, USA. Tree of Life Publications. 2002. Page 106.
[3] Camarota, Steven A. “The Open Door: How Islamic Terrorists Entered and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001.” Center for Immigration Studies. Posted June 16, 2002. Accessed November 30, 2004 at:
[4] Freedburg, Sydney. “Loopholes leave U.S. borders vulnerable.” St. Petersburg Times. November 25, 2001. Accessed November 29, 2004 at:
[5] Raddatz, Martha. “Sneaking into America: Sloppy State Dept. Paper Work Let Sept. 11 Hijackers Into the U.S.” ABC News. Accessed November 30, 2004 at:
[6] See [4]
[7] See [4]
[8] See [4]
[9] “Alleged Hijackers May Have Trained at U.S. Bases: The Pentagon has turned over military records on five men to the FBI.”
By George Wehrfritz, Catharine Skipp and John Barry. Newsweek. September 15 2001.
[10] Perle and Frum. “An End to Evil.” New York. Random house. 2004. page 69.
[11] Ross, Brian. “Face to Face With a Terrorist: Government Worker Recalls Mohamed Atta Seeking Funds Before Sept. 11.” ABC News. June 6, 2002.
[12] See [1]

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