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9/11 Working-level Employee


\\ OF STATE \\



\m ofConversation

\f NTVs to 9/11 \.



Office ofInspector General

USConsulate General. Dubai. UAE




January 20. 2003

Bert Kriee and Doug Ellice



|to Dubai to meet the inspectors there. She was interviewed on

Monday morning in the conference room of the Consulate General. She related that she testified i?n August 6, 2002, in Washington, DC, before staff members of the Burton committee [get full name of committee]. She has not been party to any other interviews; however, not the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, or the FBI have interviewed her about her issuance of nonimmigrant visas to 10 of the hijackers. Asked about the February, 2002 visit to

affected posts by CA delegate Gretchen Welch, she responded that Welch had conducted informal discussions about new visa clearance procedures and did not question Steinger about what had happened.

| larrived in Jeddah on July 1,2000 to begin herfirstForeign Service assignment.

She haid a one-day overlap with her predecessor.1

I At post she learned that Jeddah

had a policy of interview by exception for Saudi nationals. She was told that the only reason Saudi Arabia did not qualify for tiie Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP) was because of its strict

treatment of American visa applicants. Were the

reciprocity for American visitors, it would have qualified the visa waiver program by virtue of the tiny percentage of Saudi visa holders who overstayed or were turned back home by INS. There was,) Isaid, a "virtual visa waiver program" for Saudi citizens. On those rare

occasions that a Saudi application raised specific concerns and was not clearly approvable, would the applicant be asked to appear for an interview. This often resulted in the Foreign Ministry phoning the Consul General or the Consular Section Chief to ask why a personal appearance was necessary. She showed us a copy of 2000 Riyadh 02002, which made mention of the general inapplicability of Section 214(b) to Saudi nationals.

Kingdom to be more forthcoming with visa

Her biggest visa challenge, she said, was non-Saudi applicants - Third-Country Nationals, or TCNs. Under the Visas Express program, TCN applicants were also interviewed by exception, but they were required to submit supporting documents with their applications that Saudis were not, and TCNs were interviewed much more often. Saudis were asked to submit only their passports and applications —no evidence was required to support claimed socioeconomic ties, since all Saudis were presumed to have such self-evidently strong ties as to need no proof. Saudis apparently were unable to cope with working hard in the U.S., and invariably returned home to their easy life in the Kingdom. Saudis were dismissed without an interview, and told


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when to pick up their visas. Only a handful were called back for a personal interview. All TCN applicants, on the other hand, were interviewed, even, she added, those who were probably eligible based on their possession of previous visas.

Jeddah consular staff believed that they were a little "tougher" on adjudicating NIVs than Embassy Riyadh. During the summer of 2001, the section chief, Art Mills, was on home leave, so] | the NIV officer, was working alone. All told, she had issued about 20,000 visas during her tenure at Jeddah. She routinely worked until 10 p.m. to catch up on the large number

of visa applications. Nevertheless, she wanted to continue Jeddah's practice of interviewing first- time Saudi applicants for student visas. During that busy summer^ ""[worked very liard, doing 400 - 500 cases every day. She said that she had np time to look beyond the name ;and the date of birth on the visa application forms. She knew that some of them were incomplete, but believed that this did not matter because the Saudi applicants were eligible for visas in any case. Furthermore, the INS didn't have access to those applications anyway. It did

not matter exactly which hotel they would use in the U,S., for example. I

Consul General Baltimore was a good boss and supportive, but knew little about consular work. He did not interfere in consular section policies.

Isaid that

There were no travel agency programs used in Jeddah before Visas Express. Only Saudia, the national airline headquartered in Jeddah and the Saudi Government used a drop-off system for submitting applications. There were no other personal appearance waiver programs. Most individuals walked in to the consulate and dropped off their applications. Saudis were dismissed, and TCNs were interviewed.

opposed to some of the details of the Visas Express program, which was initiated on June 1, 2001, but not for reasons related to terrorism. She felt that Riyadh imposed the Visas Express program on them. She believes that Riyadh made the program mandatory because the Consul General in Riyadh, Tom Furey, had excellent experience with a similar program in Mexico. The program also eliminated the need for interviews of first time student visa applicants. She also felt that it was "a bone tossed to the Riyadh RSO" who was becoming concerned about the security threat posed to the post by the large crowd of visa applicants.

Before Visas Express was instituted, most TCN applicants in Jeddah applied in person at the consulate. Visas Express mandated that all visa applications be submitted through travel agencies, which therefore made it necessary for all TCNs to make two trips, one to the travel

agency arid a second to the consulate. It was therefore inefficient, she thought, and it obliged her

to review some 300 applications daily.]

{had no objection to Visas Express for

Saudis since it kept those people» who would not be interviewed in any event, away from the consulate. She repeated that tier objections to Visas Express had nothing to do with Saudi

applicants, their eligibility, or security concerns, only the program's effect on the handling of

TCN applican1&.|

[drafted a cable to convey her reservations about Visas Express,

but did not send it once a "kudos cable" came back from CA praising the new program.


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Reflating to the hijackers to whom she issued visas without an interviewj jsaid that, upon reflection, she had decided that even if she had interviewed them she would more than likely liave issued the visas. Mentioning the incomplete applications, she stated that those applications could have been sent back for completion, but that would have changed nothing. They would have been returned completed and the same visa would have been issued. A

statement was made in October 2001 that henceforth there would be a "zero-tolerance policy" for

incomplete applications at Saudi posts. I

Ifelt this proved that there was no such

policy beforehand. Passing applications back and forth until they were completed satisfactorily did not seem to be, in her opinion, an efficient use of scarce human resources. She mentioned that one time a couple planning a tourist visit to the USA misspelled the purpose of their trip on then- application forms as "terrorism". She called the husband in for an interview, and the error wai corrected.

I [said that she reviewed the visa applications of the terrorist hijackers and recalled that there were no direct "hits" in the Glass lookout system pertaining to any of them. Speaking

of the one terrorist that she did interview, Hani HanjomyP

jsaid that he struck her as a

typical "iniddte-class" student applicant who was not 'Veil connected." She said that the cases of Saudis she saw tended to fall into one of three socioeconomic classes, and many of the male students were in the middle. No matter which of the three classes they fell into, however, Saudis

were exempt from the requirement placed on TCNs to provide supporting documents - such as certified letters frofti employers, and bank statements^] [believed that the fact that Saudis were to?d to apply without supporting documents confirmed her earlier statement that Saudi Arabia Wasa virtual visa waiver country. "All a Saudi needs to prove is that he is a Saudi." Hani Hanjour yras interviewed because he requested a three-year stay in the U.S. on his visa application while a normal request at that time would have been for a maximum of only two years.

Questioned about resources,] [said that she wished she had more staff, one more FSN, but only to avoid overtime and to provide even more careful attention to TCN cases, especially maids. She did not consider that the hijackers received visas because the section was too busy.

The junior officer who sometimes helped her had a higher refusal rate than she did. She expressed the opinion that he was denying applicants "for the wrong reasons" and in clear contravention of some established adjudication guidelines. For example, he denied student visas to applicants seeking to attend schools of poor repute, telling them to "apply again next year with an 1-20from a REAL school." | Hi said that there was a clear statementfrom CA that this kind of refusal was inappropriate, but the other officer persisted. He was counseled to adjust his adjudication practices to comply with the policies set out in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

Asked what resources she considered were in too short supply, she said that she wished she had

more overlap and time with her predecessor.

would have helped to have an experienced mentor to show her the way at first. It took her a

There are many layers of Saudi society, and it



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while to pick up the nuances of this society. She had studied Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute for nine months and acquired a 2/1+ grade for spoken and reading comprehension.

When asked directly if she was ever encouraged to lower her refusal rate, she said she was not. The other junior officer was spoken to, she said, but he merited the talking-tok There were no validation studies done of Saudi NTV holders and there were no known cases of Saudis overstaying their visits to the U.S. The virtual Saudi visa waiver, she concluded, was apparently appropriate, given the lack of Saudi illegakin the U.S.

I hhen discussed events after September 11. She expressed surprise that her name has

/ not been publicized, and that only now was she being asked to explain what she did.

In the months after the events, it bothered her that there was so much confusion and

inconsistency in Mission and Department statements about whether or not anything had changed

regarding visa adjudication policies. In the immediate aftermath

not to change its procedures. But when the U.S. press picked up a story that nothing had changed, which was based on a telegram she had drafted, the post was chided by CA for "making the Department look bad." When the post explained its cable to CA, pointing out that no policies had in fact been changed, the Bureau suggested that future cables should be cleared with CA before being actually sent to the Department.

of the tragedy, the post was told

I [said that after September 11th she felt worse about the visas she was still issuing than she did about the ones she had previously issued to the hijackers. The hijackers clearly APPEARED to be eligible, given the policies and procedures in place before September 11th. But after September 11th, she said she found herself continuing to issue superficially similar cases. The Department stated publicly that procedures had been tightened, but they really had not, "and I was still pushing the issue button every day- issue, issue, issue. Have I," she worried out loud, "already issued visas since September 11th to the NEXT bunch of terrorists?"

In late October 2001, Embassy Riyadh informed CA that there was now a "zero-tolerance" for incomplete applications. CA apparentlymisunderstood this as well as the earlier message that more Saudi males were being interviewed, and asked for a front-channel message citing the mission's "new, higher refusal rate." CA stated that "we cannot appear to be doing business as usual".| |was chagrinned because Jeddah's refusal rate hadnotgone up appreciably. Consulate Jeddah was now indeed processing fully completed applications, and was interviewing more males, but they were still "pushing the issue button."





:igure 6: Timeline of«Vlsas issued toAHljaekers at Overseas Posts, November 1997 through June 2001





I January

; September




Al Shehhi


Ahmed^l Ghamdl



Ahmad AlHaznaST








(1st student





Saeed Al



Abdul AlOmari

, ^)

6/1»-Abu Dtwbl



Ahmed AJ

Ahmed AT Nairt



Note: All visas were tourist/business

unless otherwise

nlour's secon visa, the

• officer: However, according to testimony by the Staff Director of the Joint Inquiry Staff on September 20,2002, the post erroneously Issued the hijacker a tourist/business visa but the Immigration and Naturalization Service recognized and corrected this error when he arrived In the United States.

Source: State Department documents.

9/11 Working-level Employee


Working-leve l Employee

Dubai consular cosiTions








Dubai Consular Positions 'Apr. 2000'








15:24 Friday, December 20, 20(