10/16/2002 12:00:00 AM - Linda Chavez
What does it take to get fired from a federal job? Apparently,
admitting terrorists into the country won't do it, even when they fly into
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That's the unmistakable conclusion
you draw after reading the current issue of National Review. Investigative
reporter Joel Mowbray produces documentary evidence that State Department
employees violated their own rules and procedures -- as well as the law --
by admitting 15 of the 19 hijackers who killed more than 3,000 Americans on
September 11, 2001. Yet, to date, no one has been fired as a result of this
terrible breach in security.
Mowbray obtained copies of the actual visa applications of 15 of
the hijackers, several of which are posted online at www.nationalreview.com.
Most of the applications did not pass muster under even the most lenient
visa standards. The applications were missing rudimentary information, such
as an address in the United States where the applicant intended to live, in
some cases even a destination city. Amazingly, one applicant listed his
destination simply as "No." As Mowbray points out, "even more amazingly, he
got a visa."
In other words, despite missing or suspicious information,
consular officials rubber-stamped them anyway. Shouldn't somebody pay for
such incompetence -- what one expert interviewed by Mowbray called "criminal
negligence"? So far, no one has. Although three of the top five State
Department officials in charge of the visa program retired earlier this
year -- within weeks of an earlier expose written by Mowbray -- that hardly
seems sufficient. Heads should roll at State, but they haven't.
Ironically, the administration is pressing for the right to
dismiss incompetent workers as part of its proposed Homeland Security
legislation. But Senate Democrats have so far blocked the bill, at the
bidding of their patrons in the labor movement, who put union job security
above national security.
The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves -- but the
administration shouldn't be let off the hook, either. The White House has
been slow to endorse a full-scale investigation into the lapses in national
security that contributed to the September 11 tragedy. We deserve to know
what went wrong and why.
If the consular officials processing visa applications had done
their job, none of the 15 hijackers profiled in National Review would have
been admitted in the first place. Up and down the line, those in charge of
protecting American interests were asleep at the switch. But is there any
reason to believe that things have changed in the aftermath of the terrible
attack on this country?
Not according to Mowbray. The Bush administration's nominee to
head Consular Affairs, which oversees the visa program, admits she hasn't
looked at the faulty applications of 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers,
though surely those applications were more readily available to her than to
an outside reporter.
Accountability used to mean something. When a government
official said, "I take full responsibility," after a massive foul-up, a
letter of resignation was sure to follow. If he didn't resign, he was
summarily fired. Now, we're not even supposed to question who's to blame.
This shouldn't be a partisan issue. Do Democrats really want to
bear the risk of keeping inept employees in sensitive positions? Shouldn't
the White House want a full accounting of which agencies -- and
individuals -- missed opportunities to foil the vicious attack that lost so
Perhaps some of the 15 hijackers would have found other ways to
enter the United States if the officials in charge of reviewing their
applications had denied them visas. Hundreds of thousands of others come
here illegally every year simply by sneaking across the border. But that is
no reason to ignore the deadly errors made by State Department officials.
The president shouldn't wait until the Senate gives him new authority to rid
the bureaucracy of incompetence. He should start by firing anyone in the
direct chain of command who let in these murderers. That's the only way to
make accountability mean something.