Springmann: Well it began in Jeddah when I was repeatedly told to issue visas to unqualified applicants. This went on for quite some time, during most of my tour there.
CBC: When you say unqualified applicants, what kind of qualifications didn't they have?
Springmann: Under the American immigration laws, you need to demonstrate that you are going to the United States for a specific purpose, and typically in such a situation you are going to sign a business deal, or you're going to go as a tourist to see the Grand Canyon, or you're going as a student to study a particular course of study. And these were people that had no job; in one instance he was a Sudanese, who was unemployed in Saudi Arabia, and a refugee from the Sudan. But he got a visa for National Security purposes, after it was taken out of my hands by the chief of the consular section. The King's barber's secretary apparently got a visa. There were other people in similar situations that really demonstrated no clear idea of what they were going to do.
CBC: All right, King's barber's aside, to be the Devil's advocate your superior from time to time overruled your findings. Why is that unusual?
Springmann: Well it's unusual because in State department practice, you are supposed to have new concrete and substantive information that was not available to the fellow who adjudicated the visa at the beginning. And this was never done.
CBC: So what do you think you were dealing with here; it all sounds a bit like a case of visa fraud perhaps, but why to you think there was anything more than that?
Springmann: Well initially I thought that is what it was. There was visa fraud. I had been told by one contact that the price for a visa at the American consulate was the equivalent of $2500 US. But once I got back to the United States, and was out of the foreign service, I ran across a couple of people with ties to the American government, that told me another story; that the CIA was recruiting fighters for the Afghan war against the then Soviets, and that their asset, Osama bin Laden was working with them. They had a recruiting office in Jeddah, they had a recruiting office in Riyadh, and third one somewhere in the Eastern province. And they would send these people to Jeddah, the fifth largest visa issuing post in the Middle East, for visas. They would apparently run these people straight over from their recruiting office over to my visa window. Well obviously, when they were not good solid businessmen, or good upstanding upper class people I would refuse them.
CBC: How many would you estimate that got into the United States that shouldn't have through this back door?
Springmann: Well, in my case I would say as many as 100.
CBC: And when you questioned them, what would they say were their reasons for expecting to get a visa with such slight credentials?
Springmann: There was one instance of two Pakistanis who came to me, and they wanted to got to an American auto parts trade show. They couldn't name the show, and they couldn't name the city in which it was going to be held. And then the case officer came over and called me on the phone, and said, "Give them a visa". I said "No, it doesn't wash". "Well, we need it, I'm sorry." Then he went to the head of the consular section and got me overruled, and they got their visas. But when I complained to the powers in the consulate, and the people in Riyadh, I was told to keep quiet, that there was reasons for doing this, that it wasn't a case of my poor judgment, it was this and it was that. This simply fueled my suspicions that something untoward was going on.
CBC: Was there ever any pattern to these applicants that you could see? To their situations, their skills, their nationalities?
Springmann: They seemed to basically people with no real skills. Their nationalities for the most part were Pakistani, Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese. They were young, in their 20s and their 30s say, and they seemed to have no ties to any place in particular.
CBC: Where did Afghanistan seem to fit into this whole pattern? Because it seems they were going to the US to collect or be rewarded for some past deed, or to be trained for another. Where did Afghanistan fit in?
Springmann: Afghanistan was the end user of their facilities. My sources told me that they were coming to the United States for training as terrorists, and they would be sent back to Afghanistan. But then the countries that had originally had supplied them certainly didn't want them back. These were people that had been given skills in overthrowing governments, destroying armored columns and things like this, and the various governments in the region frankly didn't want them back, because they thought they might apply these skills at home.
CBC: So if your theory is true, you can demonstrate a relationship between the CIA and Osama bin Laden dating back as far as 1987.
Springmann: That's right. And as you recall, they believe that this fellow Sheikh Abdel Rahman over in New York that was tied to the first Trade Center bombing, had gotten his visa from a CIA case officer in the Sudan. And that 15 or so of the people who came from Saudi Arabia to participate in the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon had gotten their visas through the American consular general at Jeddah.
CBC: Well what does that suggest? That this pipeline was never rolled up, that it is still operating?
Springmann: Exactly. I had thought it had been, because I had raised sufficient hell that I thought they had done it. I had complained to the embassy in Riyadh, I had complained to the diplomatic security in Washington, I had complained to the General Accounting Office, I had complained to the State Department Inspector General's office, and I had complained to the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. Apparently the reverberations from this where heard all over the State Department.
CBC: And if what you say may be true, many of the terrorists who allegedly flew those planes into those targets got their US visas through the CIA and your US consulate in Jeddah. That suggests an relationship ongoing as recently as September . What was the CIA presumably recruiting these people for, as recently as September 11th?
Springmann: That I don't know. That's one of the things that I tried to find out through a series of Freedom of Information Act requests starting 10 years ago. And at the time, the State Department and the CIA stonewalled my requests; they are still doing so.
CBC: If the CIA had a relationship with the people responsible for September 11, are you suggesting that they are in some way complicit?
Springmann: Even through omission or failure to act.
CBC: Do you have any evidence, any paperwork from all of these years that might go towards supporting all of this?
Springmann: Regrettably not. I had something at some point. My predecessor in Jeddah had begun a file of people with peculiar attributes who got had got visas. I kept it up, I added to it. I learned later on after I had left, that this file had been mysteriously been shredded.
CBC: But you complained, and you complained and you complained, but what eventually happened to you?
Springmann: My appointment in the State Department was terminated, and I was never given a coherent statement why.
CBC: You will above all will appreciate that conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen these days with regard to September 11th, what makes yours different or any more credible than the others?
Springmann: I have floated around the international affairs community for the past 20 years. I was in the middle of this in Jeddah; I knew people in the foreign service, I knew people out of it, I knew people in the CIA. I had at one time great respect for the CIA, but this operation in Jeddah was so peculiar, so strange, and it went against anything I had ever seen or heard in my 20 years in government, that I thought that what these people were telling me about CIA involvement with Osama, and with Afghanistan had to be true because nothing else would fit. By the attempts to cover me up and shut me down, this convinced me more and more that this was not a pipe-dream, this was not a machination, this was not a conspiracy theory.
CBC: But when you take the events of 1987, when visas were being issued to people unqualified for them, and suggest that happened again to the same people responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington: that's a quantum leap. How do you justify that?
Springmann: For all I know, and for all we know, this might not have been the intended consequence. It could have been a mistake, it could have been a misjudgment. Or for all that we know, it could have been an effort to get the US directly involved in some fashion. I mean it's only a few thousand dead, and what's this against the greater gain in the Middle East.
CBC: But you're quite sure that Mohammed Atta and others had their visas issued in Jeddah?
Springmann: This is what I was told by reading an article in the Los Angeles Times.
CBC: Well, an intriguing tale and we thank you for telling us.
Springmann: You're quite welcome.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Springmann on CBC Radio
From 911 Review's wiki, a transcript of Springmann's interview with CBC Radio's Rick MacInnes-Rae, broadcast July 3, 2002: