WELCOME TO AMERICA. IF YOU'RE A JOURNALIST, BEND OVER AND SPREAD 'EM!
Information visas (I-Visa) -- a Bush administration method for controlling
the foreign media's coverage of the United States.
You're a foreign journalist and you want to visit the United States to cover
a story. If you think it is as easy as hopping on an airplane, even if you are
a citizen or resident of a visa-waiver country, guess again. Journalists wishing
to travel to the United States -- whether they are with print, television, radio,
or Internet media -- must first obtain an "I-Visa" from the U.S. embassy
or selected consulates responsible for their jurisdictions. Freelance journalists
who are not under contract to a U.S.-recognized media organization need not
Journalists must fill out a detailed application in which they are required
to outline what story they are writing about and they must personally visit
the U.S. embassy and consulate for "administrative processing, biometric
collection and a personal interview." Biometric processing at the U.S.
embassy in Copenhagen entails having one's thumb electronically scanned. Journalists
visiting some U.S. diplomatic missions for the interview cannot bring in electronic
devices (cell phones, PDAs, laptops ) [or] backpacks, suitcases and attaché
cases." At certain missions, U.S. embassy security personnel refuse to
store such items during the interview process. Others confiscate cell phones
and tag them for pick up after the interview process (needless to say, the interview
process might last a bit longer if the local U.S. spooks decide to examine the
journalist's cell phone call list and perform certain "modifications."
At the Madrid embassy, the only bags that are permitted inside the compound
are those having medical purposes, such as insulin kits.
Journalists must also provide their addresses in the United States and the
names and addresses of those who they will be interviewing. So much for freedom
of the press and the protection of journalists' sources.
The real rub comes with the I-Visa application fee. Journalists who believe
they can pay the 85 Euro (US$ 108) fee in Germany and Denmark by check, cash,
or credit card are out of luck. Certain U.S. embassies, like those in Copenhagen
and Berlin, through a bank wire contrivance, require visa fees to be paid into
special bank accounts established by the various U.S. embassies. In Germany,
the Bush cronies have cut a deal with a small outfit called Roskos and Meier
OHG, a 23-person subsidiary of the giant banking consortium, Alianz Group. Roskos
and Meier has only been around since 1994 when Messrs. Roskos and Meier formed
their company to provide insurance and financial services in the Berlin-Brandenburg
area. Now they have a lucrative sweetheart deal with the U.S. embassy to confirm
that visa fees have been paid from individuals applying for visas at the Berlin
embassy and Frankfurt consulate. The visa payments go to a special account established
at Dresdner Bank AG Berlin, Bank Routing Number (BLZ): 120 800 00, Account No.
(Kontonr.): 405 125 7600. In Denmark, the journalist visa money (600 Danish
Kroner) is wired to a special embassy account at the Jyske Bank Reg. No. 5013,
account number 200200-2. Internet banking or bank-to-bank payments are not permitted.
The U.S. embassy in Helsinki requires journalists to pay 85 Euros into Nordea
Bank account #221918-16629.
In Spain, $100 in Euros must be deposited with the Banco Santander Central
Hispano (BSCH), bank account: 0049-1803-54-2210316035. In China, a visa application
fee of 810 RMB (US$101) can only be paid at selected branches of the CITIC Industrial
Bank. In the United Arab Emirates, the $100 application fee must go to the National
Bank of Abu Dhabi. In Cyprus, 46 Cyprus Pounds (US$ 102) lands in special LAIKI
Bank account "American Embassy - MRV -- Account Number: 070-21-074824."
Morten Torkildsen, a special investigator for the UN's International Criminal
Tribunal for Yugoslavia, stated the following concerning the Nicosia U.S. embassy's
favorite Cypriot bank in a 58-page report on Slobodon Milosevic's secret foreign
holdings. ""Popular (LAIKI) Bank, the island's second largest bank,
allowed a group of Yugoslav-controlled front companies to operate in defiance
of UN sanctions. These companies supplied Mr. Milosevic's government with fuel,
raw materials, spare parts and weapons to pursue wars in Bosnia in 1992-1996
and in Kosovo in 1998-1999." LAIKI's largest shareholder (at 22 percent)
is the powerful Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). Even with
all the questions surrounding LAIKI Bank and its involvement in money laundering
for Milosevic and his regime, the Cypriot bank easily purchased Belgrade, Serbia-based
Centrobanka in January 2005.
Just think of all the various and differing U.S. embassy visa application fee
requirements and bank accounts in all the countries around the world. Considering
all the other financial malfeasance in the Bush administration, to what degree
are these accounts audited? Can anyone spell "slush fund?"
WELCOME TO AMERICA. IF YOU'RE A JOURNALIST, BEND OVER
AND SPREAD 'EM!
And there is no consistency in the visa fee program. At the U.S. embassy in
London, they accept credit cards (but no debit cards) or bank transfer or bank
cash payments (bank Giro) to a Barclays Bank special account.
What happens if the Bush cronies decide they do not like the story a foreign
journalist will be pursuing? They will reject the I-Visa application -- no explanation
necessary. But if the rejected journalist expects a refund of his or her $108,
$102, or $100, he or she can guess again. According to the U.S. embassy in Germany,
"refunds of this fee are rarely granted, and generally only in cases in
which the embassy has made an error in processing the visa application. In the
case in which a visa request has been refused or an applicant has erroneously
paid the fee twice, a refund will not be approved." In Denmark, it does
not matter if the U.S. embassy screwed up the application processing or not,
refunds are not made under any circumstance.
What happens if the visa payment confirmation is delayed for some reason. Well,
the journalist can call the U.S. Visa Information Service. But it is at a cost.
Callers are charged 1.86 Euros (US$2.37) per minute. In Spain and Andorra, the
US embassy in Madrid has figured out another phone scam. Landline phone inquiries
about US visa status in Spain cost 1.09 Euros per minute but if someone calls
on a cell phone, the charge is higher, 1.51 Euros per minute ($1.93/minute).
That can get pretty expensive if some bureaucratic nincompoop puts a caller
on hold. If a journalist phones the U.S. visa line in Spain from, say, Morocco
or Portugal, an additional $10 per transaction charge is assessed. But you can
charge that to your Visa or Master Card.
Only certain U.S. diplomatic missions process I-Visas. If you're a journalist
in Greenland or the Faeroe Islands and you want to cover a story in the United
States, you must make a long trip east to Copenhagen before you travel west
to the United States. The same cumbersome process goes for journalists in the
Maldives (they must fly to Colombo, Sri Lanka), East Timor (figure on a trip
to Jakarta, Indonesia -- not friendly territory for East Timorese), Sao Tome
(you must go to Libreville, Gabon), San Marino (visas only obtainable in Rome),
Liechtenstein (no good to go to Zurich, which is a hop, skip, and jump away,
you must go to the embassy in Bern), Monaco (no trip to the U.S. without going
to the embassy in Paris first), and Grenada (not without a trip to Bridgetown,
Barbados). There are countless other similar roadblocks thrown in the way of
journalists wishing to travel to the United States.
In some cases, foreign journalists who carry the necessary I-Visa are, nevertheless,
subjected to humiliating questioning and strip searches at U.S. airports. One
Danish journalist was required to slip down to his skivvies, bend over, and
have some perverted Homeland Security official stick his finger up his rectum.
Some female journalists from such friendly countries as Britain and Australia
have been handcuffed and sexually groped by other Homeland Security lechers
and lotharios. Meanwhile, the Bush administration's grand dame of international
public relations, Bush's gal-pal Karen Hughes, who might even put off a Homeland
Security sex maniac, continues to insist that she is improving America's image
abroad. As far as most international journalists are concerned, she is a complete
joke. And so is George W. Bush. The State Department web page comically posts
the following message from Bush to U.S. visa seekers: "America is not a
fortress; no, we never want to be a fortress. We're a free country; we're an
open society. And we must always protect the rights of our law -- of law-abiding
citizens from around the world who come here to conduct business or to study
or to spend time with their family." Yeah, right. And Bush thinks jamming
fingers up the asses of arriving journalists is part of living in a free country.
Right now, it is fortunate that most countries are not reciprocating against U.S.
journalists in kind. In fact, there are very few countries that require special
visas for journalists. The United States and a few tin horn dictatorships are
among the few countries that restrict admittance and travel for foreign journalists.
Israel severely restricts media access to the West Bank and Gaza. On the other
hand, Cuba provides freer access for foreign journalists than does the United
States. It is just that a vocal jingoistic minority in southern Florida and their
lickspittles in the Bush administration don't want any American journalists to
witness for themselves the relative freedom for foreign journalists to report
from Cuba. Ask Cuban authorities the total lack of restrictions on journalists
reporting on and photographing conditions inside the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo
Bay from their side of the fence and then consider the draconian restrictions
places on U.S. and foreign journalists inside the U.S. military concentration
If the Republicans and neo-cons are not run out of Washington soon, the situation
for American journalists abroad may change dramatically. And the public's right
to know will be the major casualty in such an event.
Read from Looking Glass News
Techniques for Truth Suppression
at the Gate: He Who Controls Television Controls the Masses
The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA
Doors Of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything
of Media Manipulation