John Giduck remains uncharacteristically tight-lipped about the details of when he arrived in Beslan, Russia to report on the Beslan school siege. We have since found a recording of John Giduck committing himself to an impossibly tight timeline that only can be described as “improbable”. John Giduck’s own words raise more questions about the journalistic integrity of the Terror At Beslan book and its author, John Giduck
John Giduck says the following about his arrival at Beslan in the podcast that can be found here at the 11:32 point in the audio:
Host: Wow..so you’ve written about the incident at Beslan. Were you actually there?
John Giduck: we got…we attempted to get there while the siege was still going on. Due to some problems that we had getting my visa delivered in the time that I was promised. We ended up making it to Moscow on the last day, getting to Beslan the morning after the battle ended with the battle having ending at 11:20 the night before.
So now we know something concrete right from John Giduck to help us build a timeline. John Giduck was not in Russia at the start of the Beslan tragedy.
How do we know this? John Giduck needed a visa This is a pretty important detail that makes for an implausible timeline. The siege started on 1 Sept 2004 and John Giduck says in his own words above that he entered Beslan on 4 September 2004.
He confirms this in his book, Terror At Beslan on page 13
As context, The Beslan school siege may have started at 9:11am on 1 September but the siege was not widely reported within Russia until the evening of Sept 1. Western news outlets did not start widely reporting about the story until the UN Security passed a resolution condemning the incident on 2 Sept. John Giduck likely heard about this via the media but lets also assume that someone contacted John Giduck on 1 September so that he had advance notice from his contacts (and to take that excuse away from him).
What follows are just some of the issues facing John Giduck’s version of events.
JOHN GIDUCK’S PROBLEMATIC TRAVEL TIMELINE
John Giduck says that he arrived in Moscow on the evening of 3 September. A quick search on Expedia shows that flights leaving at 3:39pm local Denver time arrive in Moscow at approx 7pm the next day.
John Giduck without question would have had to leave the United States on the afternoon of 2 September 2004 in order to arrive in Moscow on 3 September.
If John Giduck arrived in Moscow on the afternoon or evening of 3 September, he would have had to catch another flight to Beslan Russia likely on the morning of 4 September in order to make the timeline. Wikipedia’s timeline of the Beslan school hostage crisis notes the following for 4 September (confirmable through other sources)
3:15 AM: Vladimir Putin orders Beslan sealed and the borders of North Ossetia closed as security forces continue to search for participants in the school massacre.
Having the borders sealed makes it unlikely that John Giduck was able to catch any sort of flight to Beslan at all. In fact, we point in our blog post, “When Did John Giduck *Actually* Arrive in Beslan, Russia” that a Congessional Delegation printed in the Congressional record that they were the first and only Americans allowed to visit the Beslan school site about 10 days after the event.
Though the news about Beslan had barely been broadcast in the US and the borders of Beslan closed, we’ll assume for the moment that John Giduck made it to Moscow and flew out to Beslan before the borders closed…or should we?
JOHN GIDUCK’S PROBLEMATIC VISA TIMELINE
We know that John Giduck had some “visa problem” when the Beslan school siege started. Remember those are John Giduck’s words and not someone else’s statement about John Giduck.
Understanding the Russian process for Americans is key to understanding why John Giduck’s being on site just after the Beslan school siege ended. Russian visas are for specific dates not multiple entry over a range of dates.
A Russian entry/exit visa has two dates written in the European style (day/month/year) as opposed to the U.S. style (month/day/year). The first date indicates the earliest date a traveler may enter Russia; the second date indicates the date by which a traveler must leave Russia. A Russian visa is only valid for those exact dates and cannot be extended after the traveler has arrived in the country*
Unlike many countries, travelers cannot get arrive in Russia without a visa and simply purchase one upon arrival
You cannot obtain a visa upon arrival, so you must apply for your visa well in advance. U.S. citizens who apply for Russian visas in third countries where they do not have permission to stay for more than 90 days may face considerable delays in visa processing. If you arrive in Russia without an entry visa you will not be permitted to enter the country, and could face immediate return to the point of embarkation at your own expense.*
So John Giduck would have not only needed to hear about events in Beslan, Russia and decided to go but also would have also needed to quickly apply for a visa. That leads to another problem – Russia has no Embassy or Consulate in Colorado where John Giduck resides, only in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. In order to get a visa by 2 September, John Giduck would have needed to physically produce his passport at any of those places – assuming that they were open and processed his visa before processing others in the queue.
The visa logistics difficulties leads me to only 3 possibilities:
1) John Giduck physically flew to one of those cities on 1 September and received his visa on the morning 2 September in time to make the afternoon flight to Moscow from one of those cities and arrive on the evening of 3 September
2) John Giduck sent his passport via same day service the moment he was contacted or heard about Beslan on 1 September, the Consulate processed his visa on the afternoon of 1 Septamber and overnighted the passport back to John Giduck on the morning of 2 September.
3) John Giduck flew to Moscow without a valid visa (which does not match what John Giduck says happened)
Hopefully, the reader can see how John Giduck’s story is becoming improbable given the timeline and logistics requirements for resolving a visa problem before 2 September.
John Giduck also required a sponsor, exit visa, and specific rationale for his visa
There are several closed cities and regions in Russia. If you attempt to enter these areas without prior authorization you may be subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. You must list on the visa application all areas to be visited and subsequently register with authorities upon arrival at each destination.*
Would authorities have granted a visa for Beslan based on events that were occurring at the time? If not, this raises the possibility that John Giduck entered Russia under fraudulent pretenses. This may also mean that John Giduck’s claims that he was allegedly banned in Russia as he has claimed on his book site may have been for simple immigration violations rather than for having written a book about Beslan.
Only a review of John Giduck’s passport and visa stamps during his time in Beslan involving the school siege can confirm his side of the story.
JOHN GIDUCK’S PROBLEMATIC CREDIBILITY FOR TERROR AT BESLAN
If John Giduck did not arrive in Beslan on 4 September, every statement and first hand account can be called into question as can the author’s integrity. This is a serious issue that needs to be cleared by John Giduck himself or others that may be reading this post.
Here is what I believe may have occurred. John Giduck admits that his travel partner to Beslan, Russia was a former Russian special forces member. When John Giduck ran into visa problems, John Giduck may have sent his Russian friend forward without him only to arrive later….and then attributed what have then are essentially second hand statements through his Russian friend to first hand observations (by John Giduck).
The above paragraph may also explain the alleged gross inaccuracies in Terror At Beslan noted by Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze in thier Washington Monthly article critical of John Giduck’s book. Basic facts about the Beslan school incident are alleged to be wrong which would be surprising for someone like John Giduck that claims to be onsite just after the siege ended.
Here is more evidence that Archangel’s employees went forward first…from an Archangel Nov 2005 press release:
Sept. 1, 2004: On that date, 49 terrorists assaulted a school in Beslan, Russia, taking nearly 1,200 mostly women and children hostage and subjecting them to unimaginable brutality When this siege began, Archangel Group, a U.S. nonprofit agency providing anti-terror training and consulting services to military, government and law enforcement agencies, immediately dispatched its top Russian specialists.
The integrity of a book and author is on the line here that form the basis for the expediture of large amounts of Homeland Security funds and other tax dollars. If John Giduck was not in Beslan when he claims, then those funds may have been obtained based on false pretenses and policies enacted based on observations that were not first hand.
Only John Giduck can settle this. That said, my opinion is that there is growing evidence that makes his description difficult to believe.
*Quotes from the US State Department website http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1006.html