Saturday, July 03, 2010

When the Unimaginable Happens

Last week I found a website hosting this document - a memo of debriefing the officer who issues visas to 10 of the 19 September 11th hijackers.  While this was the first time I'd actually read it, I'd heard about this interview ever since I got my assignment to Riyadh in 2007.  Whether you're waiting to go out on your first tour or you're a veteran consular officer, it's worth a read.  There's a lot of lessons to draw from this memo.  Just because something's always been done that way doesn't mean it should be done like that. If you're worried about procedures, speak up - a good boss will listen to your concerns, even if s/he doesn't act on them.  And when something goes terribly, horribly wrong, rest assured that an investigatory committee will have questions for you.

When I started to read this document, I was afraid that I would be taken back to the stress of the consular section in Riyadh, the overarching knowledge that It Happened Once Already that was ever-present in the office.  After reading it, though, I was grimly satisfied.  I'm satisfied with the work I did there.  A consular officer takes a risk of making the "wrong" decision in every visa case; your individual judgement determines where you set that threshold for issuances and denials.  That's what we're paid to do, and that's why machines don't adjudicate visa decisions.  


  1. How stressful did it get working on the visa line in Riyadh?

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