Visas for Al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World

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¬†… from Sputnik News, Moscow ¬†

Nikolai Gorshkov

Ah… what a great day it was when we found this photo of Ziggy with Osama bin Laden

[ Editor’s Note: Many might say what is the big deal about running a story on the CIA and Saudis being the wet nurses for what became Al Qaeda. It’s old news. But VT readers will know better.

It’s not old news because the CIA underground terrorist railroad that got started back then — the¬†organizers got away scot free with that — is basically the same system “they” have been using to feed the global Jihadi system that our protectors claim to be fighting.



The New York Times dug up¬†this front row seat visa officer who was stationed in Saudi Arabia back then to give us an up close and personal view of how the “cannon fodder express” worked. I guarantee you an interesting read below.

What this article reminds us of is the link of how “no accountability” for past actions can become a deeply trodden road and produces more and more victims, and is the price of certain government workers getting their career tickets punched.

The public issue here is, who really pays for these public policy crimes? And we have several painful reminders to stimulate us… the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, the Balkans Wars, and now Syria and Ukraine, with Iran having miraculously escaped. We had Agent Orange, from which exposure my Ranger Colonel brother went to an early grave in Arlington; the vaccine scandal coverups of Gulf War One; and the depleted munitions poisoning of Gulf War Two.

We never seem to learn that, as long as those responsible get a free pass, we are condemning our children and grandchildren to suffer similar abuses in the future, as we took the road of “It’s not my job man, to fix this horrible crap”.

And that is true to the extent that no one person can, but we each can do a little bit, starting by letting those who think they got away scot free know that we can have the last say on yanking their public service medals off their jackets, and the certificates of merit off their home office walls… Jim W. Dean ]

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– First published ¬†… ¬†January 25, 2016

The New York Times has exposed a long-standing CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia, whose latest endeavor is a program to arm Syrian rebels authorized by President Obama in early 2013. Under the “Timber Sycamore” program the Saudis provide funding and purchase weapons for Syrian rebels, while the CIA trains them in secret camps in Jordan.

 The Saudi-CIA partnership dates back many years, and involves the British secret service. During the years when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, the Saudis poured money into the Afghan mujahedeen as it fought Soviet forces, matching U.S. funding dollar for dollar. The mujahedeen funding was run through CIA-managed bank accounts in Switzerland.

Those accounts were said to¬†be part of¬†the “Al Yamamah” program, dating to¬†1985, in¬†which the British and the Saudis used an oil-for-arms barter deal to¬†create massive offshore “black” accounts, including in¬†the Cayman Islands, to¬†bankroll and arm a wide array of¬†global insurgencies. These accounts provided a major source of¬†funds in¬†the Afghan war against¬†the Soviets.

This revelation by NYT adds additional weight to the allegations made in a book by Mike Springmann, former head of the US visa section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from1987-1989. In Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World, Springmann details how, “during the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Later, the CIA would move those operatives from¬†Afghanistan to¬†the Balkans, and then to¬†Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on¬†illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into¬†an organization that is synonymous with¬†jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI Know. I Was There. I Issued The Visas‚ÄĚ

In an exclusive interview with¬†Sputnik News, Springmann shared his first-hand experience of¬†issuing US visas to¬†would-be terrorists, a flagrant violation of¬†US law.¬†‚ÄúI know. I was there. I issued the visas,‚ÄĚ Springmann told Sputnik News.

Upon his arrival at¬†Jeddah, Springmann found that, as¬†a visa officer, he was expected to¬†winnow over¬†a hundred applications a day, separating them into ‚Äúissuances,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúrefusals,‚ÄĚ and what he later termed, ‚Äúfree passes for¬†CIA agents.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúOne day,‚ÄĚ Springmann recalls, ‚ÄúEric Qualkenbush, the [then] CIA Base Chief, stopped me while I was walking on¬†the consulate‚Äôs huge compound. He had a request. Could I issue a visa to¬†one of¬†his agents, an Iranian whose family owned an Oriental rug store? Eric said, ‚ÄėMike, make it look good (wink, wink). We want him in¬†Washington for¬†consultations.‚Äô‚ÄĚ

Springmann told Sputnik News he had almost daily battles with Jay Freres, the Consul General, along with several other CIA officials, who would consistently demand visas for people that law and regulation would ordinarily require him to refuse. He also had running fights with applicants who told him to approve their visas or they would complain to Freres, and have him overruled.

Most of¬†these that Springmann now considers ‚Äėunsavory types‚Äô did, in¬†fact, receive visas to¬†go to¬†the USA for¬†training, debriefing, and other purposes. In enabling their passage, American government officials violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, as¬†well as¬†many regulations codified in¬†the State Department‚Äôs Foreign Affairs Manual, says Springmann. As a purported guardian of¬†US immigration principles, he objected to¬†the blatant violations of¬†law and regulation. His objections fell on¬†deaf ears.

Springmann details that eventually he came to realize that his Consular Section job duty in Jeddah was primarily to secure visas for CIA agents, i.e., foreigners recruited by American case officers.

‚ÄúAs I later learned to¬†my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for¬†the war in¬†Afghanistan against¬†the Soviet Union‚Äôs armed forces. Further, as¬†time went by, the fighters, trained in¬†the United States, went on¬†to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.‚ÄĚ

But why would the CIA rely on¬†a ‚Äúgenuine‚ÄĚ state department visa employee when they could have easily planted one of¬†their own into¬†the Consular Section? According to¬†Springmann, ‚Äúat Jeddah, to¬†the best of¬†my knowledge, out¬†of some twenty US citizens assigned to¬†the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for¬†the Department of¬†State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.‚ÄĚ

Ignorant Pawns

The explanation to¬†the above¬†question was simple if cynical, Springmann told Sputnik News: it had to¬†be an arms-length operation, to¬†avoid exposure of¬†the CIA program and to¬†blame visa violations, if they became known, on ‚Äúincompetent‚ÄĚ office clerks, including himself.

The Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency collaborated in sending innocent workers like Springmann to Jeddah, a location that handled some forty-five-thousand visa applications annually. If a visa officer processed the paperwork and didn’t ask awkward questions about the applicants, that officer would keep his job.

If the visa officer strictly followed the law, resisting illegal pressure to¬†overlook those who did not have a legitimate reason for¬†traveling to¬†the United States, that employee ‚Äúwasn‚Äôt with¬†the program‚ÄĚ and could be exposed to¬†dismissal as¬†an incompetent, an occurrence that eventually happened to¬†the author.

‚ÄúMy name was on¬†the visa plate that stamped applications to¬†enter the United States, making me personally responsible for¬†my actions,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIn our spook-ridden Jeddah consulate, I sometimes found it was a daily battle to¬†do my job,‚ÄĚ he remarked, offering examples of¬†two such battles.

‚ÄúTwo Pakistanis came to¬†me for¬†a visa. According to¬†their story, they were traveling on¬†a Commerce Department‚Äď organized trade mission to¬†an automotive parts exhibition in¬†the United States. However, they couldn‚Äôt name the trade show or identify the city in¬†which it would be held. I denied their visa request. Within sixty minutes, Paul Arvid Tveit called and demanded visas for¬†these same Pakistanis. I explained the reasons for¬†my refusal, citing ¬ß 214(b) of¬†the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual. Ignoring the law and regulation, Tveit went to¬†Justice Stevens and the visas were issued.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThen, a political officer demanded a visa for¬†a Sudanese who was a refugee from¬†his own country and unemployed in¬†Saudi Arabia. Following the letter and the spirit of¬†the law, I refused. She immediately went to¬†Justice, and a visa was issued. When I later asked Justice why he authorized a visa to¬†someone with¬†no ties to¬†the Sudan or the kingdom, he replied simply ‚Äėnational security,‚Äô a phrase without¬†legal definition.‚ÄĚ

The dubious games played by¬†the CIA in¬†the name of ‚Äúnational security‚ÄĚ are common in¬†many Foreign Service posts, Springmann contends. ‚ÄúIn a subsequent conversation with¬†Celerino Castillo, a former Drug Enforcement Agency official, I learned that the CIA‚Äôs involvement in¬†the visa process was a successful program of¬†long-standing in¬†Latin America, he stated, adding that, it was also ‚ÄúI presume, a model for¬†Saudi Arabia.

South of¬†the border the Agency would slip passports and applications from¬†its contacts into¬†packages sent to¬†the local US consulate or embassy by¬†travel agents. Sandwiched between¬†legitimate applications, ‚ÄėAgency assets‚Äô would not be carefully examined by¬†consular officers and would thus get a free ride to¬†the United States.‚ÄĚ

A Visa for the Blind Sheikh

Likewise, Springmann says, it was a CIA ‚Äúconsular officer‚ÄĚ at¬†Khartoum in¬†Sudan who issued a tourist visa to¬†Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, later linked to¬†the World Trade Center bombing in¬†1993. The ‚Äúblind‚ÄĚ Sheikh had been on¬†a State Department terrorist watch list when he was issued the visa, entering the United States by¬†way of¬†Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Sudan in¬†1990.

Springmann believes the sheikh attempted to obtain a US visa from him via a proxy. The author states that he turned the application down.

The former state department employee pointed out to his superiors that, according to US law, passport and visa crimes are federal offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum prison sentence is increased to 15 years if the offense is connected to drug trafficking, and to 20 years if connected to terrorism.

In a chance meeting, Joe Trento, a journalist at the Public Education Center in Washington, DC, put into perspective for Sprigmann what had been really going on with the CIA in Jeddah.

‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt a garden variety visa fraud as¬†I had once thought, but¬†something much more serious: it was a ‚Äėvisas for¬†terrorists program,‚Äô set up¬†to recruit and train (in the United States) murderers, war criminals, and human rights violators for¬†combat in¬†Afghanistan against¬†the Soviet Union. These men became the founding members of¬†al-Qaeda, the Arab-Afghan Legion.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúFormer President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, began the campaign to¬†assemble these goons to¬†engage in¬†blowing things up¬†and shooting things down, preferably with¬†Soviet soldiers inside.‚ÄĚ

Saddle-Tramps

But the Saudis and other regional players in¬†the ‚Äújihad‚ÄĚ did not want those ‚Äúsaddle-tramps‚ÄĚ on¬†their soil, fearing that they would eventually use their newly acquired skills to¬†promote ‚Äúregime change‚ÄĚ at¬†home. That explains the reason many of¬†these recruits were sent to¬†the US, Springmann says, where there were up¬†to 52 induction and training centers, the primary one in¬†Brooklyn, New York City.

During his two years in Jeddah, Springmann says, he wrangled daily with intelligence officers who staffed and ran the US consulate.

‚ÄúThese were the people who arranged for¬†recruiting and training what were then the mujahedeen, who later became al-Qaeda, who then transformed themselves into¬†ISIS. I saw, but¬†didn‚Äôt recognize, their start at¬†Jeddah. We‚Äôve all seen their later development and what happens when the intelligence services control foreign policy and diplomacy: the people they assembled aided the breakup of¬†Yugoslavia, the destruction of¬†Iraq, the collapse of¬†Libya, and the savaging of¬†Syria.‚ÄĚ

Springmann attempted to protest the illegal visa practices at the highest levels of government for over 20 years, but was repeatedly stonewalled. During that time, he says, the Arab-Afghan Legion, created by the CIA to undermine the Soviet Union, has been marching from strength to strength.

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