History Commons Groups

April 16, 2010

Hanjour’s Surviving Visa Application and What It Might Mean

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 1:50 am
Tags: ,

One of the documents I have found while trawling through the 9/11 Commission’s archives is a memo of an interview with the US consular official who issued a visa to alleged Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour in 1997 (i.e. before he was a terrorist, we think). I don’t mean to rehash the entire history of the US Consulate in Jeddah, which issued multiple visas to the hijackers (most of which were issued by the same person), but I do want to highlight two points that come across in the memo.

First, there was a policy of destroying old visa applications in Jeddah due to a lack of storage space. However, Hanjour’s 1997 application strangely survived until after 9/11. In their preparation, the commission’s investigators noticed this and asked the consular officer about it. This is the relevant paragraph:

As to why this application survived (F1 visa) but later applications for B visas were destroyed, she said generally they kept visa applications for 2 years because they had the storage capacity at post—and it was a good, useful source of information. The only explanation for that one surviving is that perhaps the application was pulled (if he had reapplied at a later time) and then it was attached to a later application—only logical explanation she could think of.

As we know, Hanjour did re-apply for another visa (after apparently becoming a terrorist), which he obtained in circumstances that can only be described as bizarre. One of the issues was that he lied on his application, claiming never before to have visited the US, but the US consular official who issued the visa claimed she didn’t know this was a lie at the time because she didn’t look for previous visa issuances. On the contrary, the surviving 1997 application indicates that somebody may well have known of the 1997 visa, although whether this was the official who issued the visa we don’t know.

The other issue raised in the memo is co-operation with some Other Government Agency. Here is the relevant section:

We asked if it was unusual to go to another agency to ask for help to look into someone’s background. [Redacted] said it was not and that she has done so in the past. She said she could discuss this with us more in a classified environment.

[Redacted] said “if we did have questions, we would ask other agencies” – although she did not recall how often they did this in Jeddah. In [redacted].

Readers probably don’t need me to tell them that “another agency” is probably the one headquartered in Langley, Virginia. In this context it is perhaps appropriate to recall the whistleblowing of Michael Springmann, a former consular officer in Jeddah who claimed the CIA insisted on him issuing visas to unqualified applicants at the back end of the Soviet-Afghan War. Naturally, what the consular officer interviewed by the commission said cannot be taken to imply that the CIA got the Jeddah hijackers issued with visas, but the involvement of “another agency” in the visa issue process is certainly interesting.

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