State has by no means been acting as a rogue department in dealing with Saudi Arabia, somehow coddling a nation that various White Houses considered hostile. But the lengths to which State goes to pamper the Saudis is something largely carried out of its own volition. There is no better example of this than Visa Express, the program that required all Saudis (including non-citizens) to turn in their visa applications at private Saudi travel agencies, which then sent them in bundles to the embassy in Riyadh or the consulate in Jeddah. Visa Express was entirely of State’s own making; it was conceived of and planned for while Clinton was president, and was officially launched when Bush was in the White House. And in the three months it was operational before September 11, Visa Express let in three of the September 11 terrorists. But State did not shut it down. It took ten months—and tremendous public pressure—before that happened.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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