Had she done so, she would have seen that at least 15 of the hijackers actually did not meet the legal qualifications for a visa, and in fact, the only reason they were invited into the United States is because they were Saudis. She would have discovered that Visa Express was merely a symptom of a dangerous policy welcoming all Saudi applicants, no matter how unqualified under the law.
But she didn?t care.
During her tenure, Ms. Harty has stonewalled Congressmen and Senators pushing for reform. She has quietly kept alive much of the courtesy culture and has done little to orient her staff to think of themselves as the last line of protection in our border security. Consular training remains startlingly sparse, with a complete lack of law enforcement-style techniques to ferret out liars and cheats?or terrorists.
Worst of all, though, is that Ms. Harty has not closed the open door policy for Saudis seeking visas. She has, in fact, opened it wider. The refusal rates for Saudi nationals wishing to come here has dropped steadily during her tenure, falling below 10% in Riyadh last year.
Nearly 90% of Saudi nationals applying for visas receive them, even though the law, particularly a provision known as 214(b), sets out rigorous requirements before someone can be deemed eligible. Refusal rates for most of the Arab world, for example, are three to five times higher than in Saudi Arabia?and that disparity is likely to grow under Ms. Harty?s leadership.
Saudis? easy access to visas has not gone unnoticed by al Qaeda. 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed reportedly told interrogators that the reason 15 of the terrorists were Saudis was because they had the greatest ease getting visas.
With Maura Harty at the helm, that hasn?t changed. And as long as she sticks around, nationals of the country that sent us 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists will continue receiving the red carpet treatment. If that isn?t grounds for firing, what is?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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