The Mistake Department: One Example of Why American Foreign Policy is a Disaster
This week Visibility 9-11 welcomes former diplomat from the State Department’s
Foreign Service J. Michael Springmann. Mr. Springmann served postings in Germany,
India, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in Washington
D.C. He is a published author of several articles on national security themes,
and is an attorney in private practice in Washington D.C.
Michael has attended several 9/11 Conferences over the years, most notably,
the 9/11 Omission hearings on 9/9/2004 chaired by former Representative and
current Green Party candidate for President, Cynthia McKinney, as well as the
recent conference in Keene, NH.
Included in this important interview is a discussion regarding a new article
by Mr. Springmann titled, THE
MISTAKE DEPARTMENT: One Example of Why American Foreign Policy is a Disaster
(reprinted below) that discusses the American Consulate General at Jeddah, Saudi
Arabia, and it’s relationship to 15 of the 19 alleged September 11th hijackers.
In it, he says that "the Jeddah Consulate was not a State Department post
but an intelligence services operation", "the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) routinely demanded (and got) visas for sleazy characters with no
ties to either their home country or Saudi Arabia," and "these vile
people were terrorists recruited by U.S. intelligence officers along with Osama
bin Laden, then a CIA asset."
THE MISTAKE DEPARTMENT
One Example of Why American Foreign Policy is a Disaster
by J. Michael Springmann
After airplanes flew into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, The Los
Angeles Times reported that 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers got their U.S. visas
from the American Consulate General at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a consulate where
I had served as chief of the Visa Section. What The Los Angeles Times did not
report was what I had told their Washington, D.C. bureau after reading the story:
(1) that the Jeddah Consulate was not a State Department post but an intelligence
services operation; (2) that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) routinely
demanded (and got) visas for sleazy characters with no ties to either their
home country or Saudi Arabia; (3) that these vile people were terrorists recruited
by U.S. intelligence officers along with Osama bin Laden, then a CIA asset.
With the help of non-State Department officials, i.e., Consul General, Jay Philip
Freres (retired and living in Clearwater, Fla.), the head of the Political/Economic
Section, Eric L. Qualkenbush (retired and living in Findlay, Ohio), the Political
Officer, Henry Ensher (currently assigned to D.C. and living in McLean, Va.),
a Commercial Officer, Paul Arvid Tveit (retired and also living in McLean, Va.),
the Chief of the Consular Section, Justice (given name) Stevens (whereabouts
unknown), and a "part-time" Consular officer, Andy Weber (last seen
on the PBS program "Bio-Terror"), they were sent to America for training
in blowing things up and shooting things down. Afterwards, they were sent on
to Afghanistan to murder Soviet soldiers. It seems pretty clear that they and
people that they had trained are now pursuing their own goals (and most likely
U.S. foreign policy interests) in helping destabilize Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Their next target may be Iran.
Having been Commercial Attaché at the American Embassy in New Delhi,
India (a post with a goodly number of CIA and National Security Agency, NSA,
staff) and twice in Stuttgart, Germany, a Consulate with successive Consuls
General sent out by the intelligence services, Douglas Jones and Day Olin Mount
(both now retired, whereabouts unknown), I was still flabbergasted at the blatant
disregard (and wholehearted contempt) for the Immigration and Nationality Act
and the Foreign Affairs Manual (the State Department’s Holy Book governing,
inter alia, visa issuance). And it wasn’t until I was fired for questioning
these spurious visa practices that I learned what was really going on and how
the system worked–to America’s detriment.
Despite being given ample notice, I still did not, in fact, could not, see
the coming disaster–because I trusted my government. Consider:
–My predecessor at Jeddah (Greta C. Holtz, now assigned to Washington) simply
did not answer my letters asking about the situation at the Consulate, later
telling me that she was "too upset" to respond. (Once there, I learned
that she had been repeatedly threatened with losing her job over visa refusals,
but, later, was apparently "wised-up" about the situation since she
then stopped her complaining.)
–The then-American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Walter Cutler (who went on
to head the Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C. for 17 years,
promoting U.S. ties with Iran), spent 45 minutes with me before I left the U.S.
In the meeting, he told me about all the problems my predecessor had caused
him in refusing visas to unqualified people. When I asked the State Department
Desk Officer for Saudi Arabia about this, he replied that he didn’t know, "Cutler
was just a queer duck".
–Again, while still in D.C., I had a chance conversation with a staff member
(Ellen Goff) at the Executive Office of the-then Bureau for Near East/South
Asia, learning that there were serious but unspecified problems connected with
visa issuances at Jeddah.
–Upon my arrival, I was fêted for being a distinct change from my predecessor
(who still has her job and is a high-ranking Foreign Service officer). Not long
afterwards, things swiftly reversed themselves, and I was constantly browbeaten
by the Consul General, Jay Freres, about refusing visas to unqualified applicants.
–It was not unusual for expediters carrying visa applications to the Consulate
for their employers to tell me I could issue the visa then and there or, if
I refused, later on, after the Consul General ordered me to.
–I was told by a contact outside the Consulate (Nestor Martin, whereabouts
unknown), whom I now believe worked for the CIA, that if I spoke one word about
the nefarious visa activities to a team inspecting the Consulate’s operations,
I would lose my job. One of the Inspectors (Joseph P. O’Neil, later retired,
but afterwards assigned to various posts in Central Asia) came to me, questioned
me in detail, while insisting I had to answer and that he would protect me.
I did and I later lost my job.
–The Counselor for Consular Affairs in Riyadh, Stephanie Smith, (now retired
and living in Florida) told me that things in Jeddah were very serious and that,
on my way to my next assignment, I should speak about the disconcerting situation
with the Bureau for Consular Affairs–which then professed absolutely no interest
when I did so.
–After being notified that the State Department intended to pitch me out,
I contacted that agency’s Inspector General and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security
(DS). DS agents, including Travis A. Moran, told me that I simply had had a
"personality conflict" with the Consul General (who, astonishingly
enough, had had a visa signature plate made and had sat at the visa window interviewing
applicants, a function far below his pay grade).
At the time (before I spoke with the journalist Joe Trento, a retired government
official, and a man connected to a D.C. university (not named for their safety)
and learned what was really going on), I had thought the whole problem was visa
fraud, i.e., someone was paying good money for a chance to come to the U.S.
Fraud like this is every consular officer’s nightmare and is anathema at State.
According to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s website: "[V]isa fraud
is a federal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
If the offense is connected…to international terrorism [the sentence is increased
to 20 years]."
But, when I said "fraud" to people charge with investigating it,
I was told I had a personality conflict. And I became unemployed.
There you have it. The United States of America, whose diplomatic posts are
too often outposts of the CIA and NSA, was running (and, from what I can see)
is likely still running a visas for terrorists program, while blaming the rest
of the world for causing disasters of its own making. According to a former
CIA Station Chief and a member of State’s Inspector General’s office, both of
whom I wish to protect, at least one-third of the people who claim to work for
the Department of State in reality work for one of the many U.S. intelligence
agencies. In my limited experience, I would be inclined to raise that proportion
which, I am inclined to believe, is increasing. (In Jeddah, all but three of
the 20 or so U.S. staff worked for intelligence offices.)
Despite my best efforts, no other agency of the United States government ever
wanted to deal with this matter. My Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about
the reasons for my dismissal was sealed (and shut down) as a threat to national
security. The Government Accountability Office took no interest in what I told
them about the issue. The FBI ignored my calls, even the ones after September
11, 2001. Congress then and later also took an ostrich’s view of my charges
with a staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee once telling me that we
needed the CIA.
Over the years, I wrote ever more pointed letters to Congressmen dealing with
the intelligence services: to John D. Rockefeller IV, then Vice Chairman, U.S.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; to Jane Harman, then Ranking Member,
U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and
to Nancy Pelosi, then Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives. I also
wrote to Tom Davis, now Ranking Republican on the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, who was opposing legislation
to protect national security whistle-blowers.
In those missives, I named the intelligence officers who ran the Visas for
Terrorists Program and instructed the Congressmen on how to contact them. But,
no action was ever taken, no question was ever raised, giving rise to my view
that they knew all about the matter. And chose to ignore it.
Additionally, in the hopes of getting some action, I published several articles
on the Visas for Terrorists Program, "The Hand That Rules The Visa Machine
Rocks The World" in a now-defunct magazine during the Winter of 2001, and
"The Visas for Terrorists Program" in Global Outlook (Triple Issue
No. 11, Spring/Summer 2006). While the concept was picked up by Project Censored
(25 Runners Up) 2002, and my interviews are still on the Internet, no uproar
has yet been generated and no governmental action has resulted.
Why not? Any investigation would mean indictments. It would mean jail sentences.
It would mean political accountability. And, as we can see from the illegal
and unconstitutional wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, soon, Iran, no one, whether
voter or politician or official, wants to deal with an uncomfortable and rather
dangerous reality. It would reflect on their judgment (or lack of it) and, if
faced squarely, would cause them to believe that their lives have been a lie.
J. Michael Springmann was a diplomat in the State Department’s Foreign
Service, with postings to Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of Intelligence
and Research in Washington, D.C. The published author of several articles on
national security themes, he is now an attorney in private practice in the Washington,