- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Express to America
How easy was it for 15 of the 19 suicide terrorists of September 11 to obtain U.S. visas in Saudi Arabia?
Read this and tell us.
Inside the Beltway has received a copy of a priority cable from Ambassador Mary Ryan, head of the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, advising all U.S. consular posts to "take a hard look at their current visa operations" particularly a new express visa service in Saudi Arabia that the U.S. government was hailing just months before the September 11 attacks.
"The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh is proud to announce the implementation of its new U.S. VISA EXPRESS service for expediting nonimmigrant visa applications throughout Saudi Arabia," the embassy in Riyadh and U.S. consulate in Jeddah announced to Saudi citizens on June 25, 2001, a posting printed in the Arabic language obtained by this column.
"Now all Saudis and non-Saudi applicants may obtain visas at their own convenience by submitting their applications through any of ten designated travel/courier companies operating throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These travel/courier companies will then submit the visa applications for processing to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or to the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, whichever is nearest to the applicant.
"Applicants will no longer have to take time off from work, no longer have to wait in long lines under the hot sun and in crowded waiting rooms, and no longer be limited by any time constraints," the embassy said in the posting.
In the unclassified cable, Ambassador Ryan said express visa procedures had better be reviewed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, "particularly those that waive personal appearance of the applicant," she writes.
Just two weeks ago, the same ambassador blasted U.S. intelligence agencies, mainly the FBI and CIA, for not alerting U.S. visa officers to knowledge it had about some of the September 11 hijackers and their links to terrorism.
Had such intelligence been shared, she said, the terrorists might never have entered the country.
"It is a colossal intelligence failure, or there was information that wasn't shared with us," Ambassador Ryan told U.S. senators when she was called to testify at a recent hearing on the terrorist attacks. "We are only as good as the information that we have in the system."

Captain America
Griff Jenkins certainly went all out to send a patriotic message to Islamic terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Well known in Washington journalism circles, the executive producer of the "Oliver North Radio Show" patiently stood still for six hours as local tattoo artist Paul Roe, of Grafixx Tattoo on G Street NW, painted him head to toe in red, white and blue.
Mr. Jenkins then headed to Georgetown, for the seventh annual Capital Club of Washington Halloween Party proceeds of which went to a September 11 disaster relief fund where his living American Flag captured top honors.
In accepting the prize for best costume, Mr. Jenkins declared: "I have a message for Osama bin Laden come anthrax this."

Dole lead
Former American Red Cross president and Reagan Cabinet member Elizabeth Dole appears the early favorite among North Carolinians to fill the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.
GOP pollster Chris Ingram, president of Arlington-based 411 Communications, conducted an informal straw poll among North Carolina Republican Party activists to measure grass-roots support of various U.S. Senate candidates to replace Mr. Helms.
The straw poll was conducted Saturday during a grass-roots training workshop that Mr. Ingram was conducting for the state party on behalf of the Republican National Committee.
It found Mrs. Dole has the support of 56 percent of attendants, former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot has 25 percent, former Rep. Robin Hayes has 8 percent, and Lexington lawyer Jim Snyder has 4 percent. Ada Fisher of Salisbury received no votes, while 8 percent of those polled were undecided.
Participants were asked to write down the name of the candidate whom they would vote for if the election were held today.
"While I can't overemphasize that this is just an informal straw poll, it does give a good indication of where the grass-roots activists are lining up," Mr. Ingram told Inside the Beltway yesterday. "These are the folks who will be making phone calls, hanging up yard signs, and stuffing envelopes for the campaigns."
Still, Mr. Ingram cautions that politics is as unpredictable as the weather.
"Clearly Elizabeth Dole is the front-runner, but it's still early and I wouldn't count the others out just yet," he said.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or e-mail jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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