In internally circulated e-mail messages to several State Department officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Consul General in Rome Chuck Keil complained that congressional critics have been saying terrorists "were able to enter the United States due to a lack of vigilance or downright negligence."
"All this smacks of the days of Sen. Joe McCarthy, when a witch hunt 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," Keil wrote in the e-mail obtained by the Times.
Conservative members of Congress have criticized the State Department for being too lax in the visa process, with some calling for visa-granting power to be transferred from the State Department to the new Department of Homeland Security and two House Committees considering such legislation.
In his e-mail messages, Keil compared Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., to McCarthy lawyer Roy Cohen. Burton "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 Roy Cohn proud," Keil wrote.
State Department officials told United Press International that Ryan had offered to retire from her post as early as last fall. However, Undersecretary for Management Grant Green asked Ryan to retire after the introduction of the House legislation.
Consul official Colombia A. Barrosse, one recipient of the Keil e-mail, replied that firing Ryan makes it more likely the visa function would be removed from the State Department.
"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," Barrosse wrote.
When shown Keil's e-mail, Burton said he would complain to Secretary of State Colin Powell, but refused to comment publicly, the Times said.
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