- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The State Department official who was forced to retire because her office allowed most of the September 11 hijackers into the United States has won an "outstanding performance" award of $15,000.
The bonus to Mary Ryan, the former head of the State Department's consular service, was awarded for the period beginning April 16, 2001 nearly five months before the suicide attacks and ending April 15, 2002.
"The performance of people is examined very carefully by committees, and they determine who gets the pay benefits," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
"People get these performance awards based on things that they've done and how they've performed in their jobs and met the needs of the service. It's a sign that they performed well in terms of serving their country and their government," Mr. Boucher said.
The congressional General Accounting Office said in a report this week that 13 of the 19 hijackers were given visas without ever seeing a U.S. consular official.
The report also warned that continued weaknesses in visa procedures limit the effectiveness of the process as an anti-terrorism tool.
Last summer, reports of lax visa rules for Saudis who could apply for visas over the Internet with no questions asked prompted Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to force Miss Ryan to retire.
Miss Ryan's last day, after 36 years at the department, was Sept. 30, according to a State Department official who asked not to be identified.
According to State Department cable No. 206262, which was sent out Oct. 18, Miss Ryan is among more than 200 State Department employees being honored.
Thomas Furey, who was consul-general in the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and helped establish the "Visa Express," also received a bonus.
Fifteen of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals. It is not clear how many received their visas through Visa Express, which allowed all Saudis to apply through travel agents or over the Internet and routinely granted visas with no interviews.
Mr. Boucher, when asked whether the bonus was appropriate, accused the reporter of "attacking friends of mine, people who dedicate their lives to their government and their country my friends."
Mr. Boucher, who also received a bonus, refused to comment on the individual merits of each bonus.
The awards list was compiled this summer by the 2002 Senior Foreign Service Selection Board. The State Department official would not describe the criteria on which the awards were made.
Miss Ryan was appointed by President Clinton to the position of assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, a position roughly equivalent to a four-star general in the military.
Under Mr. Clinton, she was awarded two presidential Distinguished Service awards.
While Miss Ryan headed the consular affairs office, the U.S. Consulate in Doha, Qatar, was also accused of selling at least 71 visas for $10,000 each.
Even after September 11, Mrs. Ryan ordered that procedures for the "Visa Express" program be maintained, even as the name was quietly dropped.
"In keeping with the spirit of American justice and fairness [pre-September 11 rules] must be followed," she directed.
New procedures have since been put in place, requiring Saudi men in a particular age group to be interviewed.

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