- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

High-level State Department officials have circulated e-mails accusing Rep. Dan Burton and Bush administration officials of McCarthyism and neo-Nazism for criticizing the visa system's failure to keep the September 11 terrorists out of the country.
The internal e-mails, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times, come as the State Department announced that it has reprimanded two staffers for earlier e-mails criticizing a member of Congress.
Chuck Keil, the consul general in Rome, complained to several State Department officials including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman that congressional critics have been saying terrorists "were able to enter the United States due to lack of vigilance or downright negligence."
"All of this smacks of the days of Senator Joe McCarthy, when a witchhunt conducted in the name of protecting Americans from the communist menace ruined the careers of Foreign Service Officers who had allegedly lost China to the Reds, or else helped Communist and Communist sympathizers obtain visas to enter the United States," he wrote.
Mr. Burton, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Government Reform Committee, "slanders [ousted Consular Affairs chief] Mary Ryan, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Civil and Foreign Service employees of the State in Washington and overseas through a litany of half-truths and outright canards that would have done [McCarthy lawyer] Roy Cohn proud," Mr. Keil wrote.
One recipient of the Keil e-mail, Colombia A. Barrosse, is another consular official. She replied in an e-mail to some, but not all, of the same people that firing the popular Miss Ryan after 36 years in the Foreign Service makes it more likely that the visa function will be removed from State and given to the new Department of Homeland Security.
"We assume Mary's replacement will not be a career officer with a balanced approach but a neo-Nazi who views us as incompetent or criminal," wrote Mrs. Barrosse, who works in Washington. She declined to speak to The Washington Times.
A senior State Department official said last night that Mr. Keil's July 10 e-mail had disturbed some of the recipients, including George Lannon, who last week was named to replace Miss Ryan as acting assistant secretary for consular affairs.
Mr. Lannon e-mailed back to Mr. Keil that his message "gives the impression that consular officers may even be disloyal," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
He said a second senior consular official responded to Mr. Keil that his e-mail "tainted Mary Ryan's legacy."
Mr. Keil is retiring and might have used this as an excuse to vent his feelings, the official said. Yesterday it was announced that his retirement would become effective immediately.
Mr. Burton, when shown Mr. Keil's e-mail, said he would complain to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. But a spokesman in his office said he would not respond publicly until the contents of the e-mail were published today.
However, the senior State Department official said Mr. Armitage spoke to Mr. Burton yesterday afternoon and "said that we know what this is all about and we would take care of it."
Mr. Powell apologized to Congress last week about departmental e-mails disclosed by The Washington Times saying that Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican, "had no brain, like the Scarecrow" in "The Wizard of Oz."
Two State Department officials were reprimanded by Mr. Armitage for sending those e-mails, department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
"The secretary [of state] has made very, very clear to everybody in this building that gossip and innuendo and slander and personal views are not befitting our job; they're not going to be allowed in an organization that he heads," Mr. Boucher said.
Rep. Bob Barr, the Georgia Republican to whom Mr. Powell apologized for the remarks about Mr. Gilman, said yesterday that he was not "totally surprised."
"State Department personnel think they are in a world of their own and can make remarks like this about elected members of Congress," Mr. Barr said.
Mr. Keil's e-mail reflected widespread concern within the State Department that the visa-granting function will be removed from the department, just as some responsibilities for trade, commerce and international finance have been shifted in recent years to other departments.
Mr. Boucher, while critical of the e-mails, said there was within the consular service "a level of frustration and anger at press stories" accusing staff of lax policies in granting visas.
The senior State Department official said that before the use of new technologies, staff might have gotten away with sharing such sentiments. "People who spouted off on the phone now do it on e-mail," the official said.
"Our message [to the staff] on the Gilman e-mails was to remember who's elected to public office. Second, remember that Gilman has been a strong supporter of a U.S. role in the world. Third, don't be stupid" and write things that could embarrass the department.

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