- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

Without any substantive background research and ignoring the strong concerns of Christian and family groups, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today is giving a perfunctory hearing to the nominee for assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, Maura Harty. Unless a senator on the committee is willing to stand up to the State Department, Ms. Harty could soon be confirmed as the head of Consular Affairs (CA), the agency within the State Department that oversees consulates and sets policies for visas regarding who gets in this country and who does not.
Ms. Harty has been blasted by the parents of kidnapped kids for her management at the Office of Children's Issues (OCI), the division within CA responsible for recovering American children abducted to other countries by their foreign parents, while others raise serious doubts about her ability to provide dynamic leadership as the chief visa officer.
As a careerist at the State Department, Ms. Harty has held positions all over the world, ranging from a consular tour in Spain to two stints heading up OCI. Ironically, at the same time as Ms. Harty's confirmation hearing in the Senate today, Rep. Dan Burton's Government Reform Committee is holding hearings about a mess Ms. Harty did virtually nothing to fix the epidemic of American children held hostage in Saudi Arabia. Said one of those parents, Patricia Roush, about Ms. Harty's tenure at OCI: "Her record was one of indifference bordering on hostility to the interests of American parents."
Despite the animosity parents of abducted children harbor for her, Ms. Harty is well-liked by her colleagues and she hit it off with the staff director for the Senate committee's ranking member, Sen. Jesse Helms. With Mr. Helms in declining health, most decisions not considered vital are now handled by committee staff, and the staff director, Patricia McNerney, is a self-professed liberal yes, a liberal works for Mr. Helms, the conservative legend. One senior State Department official quipped about the McNerney-Harty meeting, "They had a feminist bonding session."
People who have worked under and side-by-side with her describe her as "nice," "technically proficient," and "ambitious," but the word not used by any of them is "leader." One current consular officer who has worked for her noted, "Maura Harty is very good at doing what she is told and not rocking the boat." While such a go-along, get-along attitude has smoothed the path for her rapid rise through the State Department's ranks, it could prove extremely problematic when she is charged with restricting access to visas to keep out terrorists.
The damage that could result from Ms. Harty's instinctive embrace of stability can be seen on a smaller scale in an incident that occurred under her watch more than a decade ago. When she was chief of non-immigrant visas in Bogota, Colombia, Ms. Harty had to deal with a conflict between two foreign service nationals (FSNs), both of whom worked under her at the embassy. One FSN accused the other of visa fraud allegations that proved true after an investigation. But months before the investigation, Ms. Harty responded swiftly she fired the clean FSN who pointed the finger at the corrupt FSN. A person familiar with the situation notes, "Maura Harty didn't want to have to deal with a messy situation, so she opted for a fix that made her life easier."
It's possible that what happened in Colombia was an anomaly, but even today Ms. Harty seems apathetic to the job of determining what steps are needed to keep visas out of the hands of terrorists.
Given that all 19 of the September 11 hijackers came here on legal visas, common sense would dictate that the most important task for a new head of Consular Affairs would be plugging the holes in our border security that made possible the worst terrorist action in our nation's history. Ms. Harty does not seem to share that view, however, since a senior State Department official confirms that she has not even looked at the visa application forms of the September 11 terrorists. In the two-and-a-half months since the State Department gave her name to the White House, Ms. Harty has had such a brazen disregard for the immense problems with our visa issuance system that she has not even bothered to glance at the paperwork the terrorists completed before waltzing in this country on a red carpet.
In a time of war when the enemy wants nothing more than to gain access into the United States, we need a bold and dynamic leader calling the shots at Consular Affairs. The American people deserve no less, and our very safety depends on it.

Joel Mowbray is a reporter for National Review and a contributing editor for National Review Online. (jdmowbra@erols.com)

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