1987-1989: Michael Springman, the head US consular official in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, later claims that he is "repeatedly told to issue visas to unqualified applicants." He turns them down, but is repeatedly overruled by superiors. He claims the visas were issued for recruits fighting for bin Laden against Russia in Afghanistan. Springman loudly complains about the practice to numerous government offices but no action is taken. He eventually is fired and the files he has kept on these applicants are destroyed. Springman speculates the issuing of visas to radical Islamic fighters continued until 9/11. [BBC, 11/6/01, Canadian Broadcasting Company, 1/16/02 - the link is to an audio of the interview] He cites the highly visible Sheikh Abdul Rahman getting a visa to the US in 1990 despite his name being on a watch list prior to his role in the WTC bombing in 1993 [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96, Newsday, 9/23/01], and 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers getting their visas through Jeddah (see May 21, 2002 (C)) as examples of how the practice continued (see also October 21, 2002 and October 23, 2002).
May 22, 2002: At least half of the 48 Muslim radicals linked to terrorist plots in the US since 1993 manipulated or violated immigration laws to enter this country and then stay here. Even when the terrorists did little to hide violations of visa requirements or other laws, INS officials failed to enforce the laws or to deport the offenders. The terrorists used a variety of methods. At the time they committed their crimes, 12 of the 48 were illegal immigrants. At least five others had lived in the US illegally, and four others had committed significant immigration violations. Others were here legally but should have been rejected for visas because they fit US immigration profiles of people who are likely to overstay their visas. [USA Today, 5/22/02] Experts later strongly suggest that the visa applications for all 15 of the Saudi Arabian 9/11 hijackers should have been rejected due to numerous irregularities (see October 23, 2002).
October 21, 2002: The General Accounting Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, releases a report asserting that at least 13 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were never interviewed by US consular officials before being granted visas to enter the US. This contradicts previous assurances from the State Department that 12 of the hijackers had been interviewed. It also found that, for 15 hijackers whose applications could be found, none had filled in the documents properly. Records for four other hijackers, including Atta, could not be checked because they were accidentally destroyed (see October 23, 2002). [Washington Post, 10/22/02]
October 23, 2002: Visa applications for the 15 Saudi Arabian hijackers are made public, and six separate experts agree: "All of them should have been denied entry [into the US]." Joel Mowbray, who first breaks the story for the conservative National Review, says he is shocked by what he saw: "I really was expecting al-Qaeda to have trained their operatives well, to beat the system. They didn't have to beat the system, the system was rigged in their favor from the get-go." A former US consular officer says the visas show a pattern of criminal negligence. Some examples: "Abdulaziz Alomari claimed to be a student but didn't name a school; claimed to be married but didn't name a spouse; under nationality and gender, he didn't list anything." "Khalid Almihdhar ... simply listed 'Hotel' as his US destination no name, no city, no state but no problem getting a visa." Only one actually gave a US destination, and one stated his destination as "no." Only Hani Hanjour had a slight delay in acquiring his visa. His first application was flagged because he wrote he wanted to visit for three years when the legal limit is two. When he returned two weeks later, he simply changed the form to read "one year" and was accepted. The experts agree that even allowing for chance, incompetence and human error, the odds were that only a few should have been approved (see October 21, 2002). [New York Post, 10/9/02, ABC News, 10/23/02] Could Michael Springman, a former visa official at the same US consulate where the 15 hijackers got their visas, be correct that the US is purposely letting terrorists get visas (see 1987-1989)? Click here to see visa applications for Hani Hanjour 1, 2 and 3, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, and Abdulaziz Alomari, all taken from the National Review. [National Review, 10/9/02]