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U.S. Department of State

Interview on FOX News with Jim Angle

Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC
November 13, 2002

[ ... ]

MR. ANGLE:  Let me ask you about some State Department personnel who are up for confirmation, particularly Maura Harty, who is up to be head of Consular Affairs, which, as you know, has a recent troubled history.  And some critics, especially conservative critics, have suggested that she is tarnished because she was part of the agency that granted visas to the 9/11 terrorists.

What is your view?  What can you say to the critics as they approach a vote on her?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  I'd say that President Bush and Secretary Powell have looked closely at the qualifications of Maura Harty and they pronounced themselves satisfied, number one.

Number two, I think, personally, there was some sloppy work in the granting of some of the visas to some of those Saudis who came here and conducted these heinous attacks.

But the fact of the matter is nobody was wearing a sign saying they were terrorists; there was no information in the criminal or intelligence database which would have led anyone to understand these people in the back of the lines were intent on doing us harm. 

Can we have done better?  Yes.  Should we have done better?  Absolutely.  But I find it hard to believe that Maura Harty should be held responsible for that while she was holding the job as Executive Secretary for the Secretary of State of the United States of America.

MR. ANGLE:   Well, and you are in the midst of reforming that agency, but why should Members of Congress believe that Maura Harty is the person to undertake those reforms?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Well, they ought to take time to introduce themselves to Ms. Harty.  They'd find that she's feisty, she's tough, she knows the issues inside and out. 

And there's a wide swath of issues involved.  It's not simply the granting of visas.  Millions of Americans get in jams each year.  It's consular officials who get them out.  Millions of Americans lose their passports or arrive at some untoward adventure in their foreign travel, and it is Consular Affairs officers who take care of them.  It is Consular Affairs officers who try to solve the problems of child abductees, and sometimes with some remarkable success and sometimes, yes, some failures. 

MR. ANGLE:  And that's one of the things she's been criticized for.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Yeah, this is very interesting.  She has been criticized for this, and, again, it was Maura Harty who began the Office of Children's Issues in Consular Affairs in the early '90s, which started with four people and it's now got 17.  So it's very interesting to be damned for having started an office whose very existence is dedicated to the resolution of the question of child abductions.

MR. ANGLE:  Now, there is one interesting thing in the offing.  Homeland Security, a Homeland Security Department, looks as if it's on the verge of passage. 


MR. ANGLE:  And once it is in place, part of what the State Department does will fall under the rubric of Homeland Security, especially granting visas.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE:  Well, the policy oversight of that will fall under Homeland Security.  It will be Consular Affairs officers working under the direction of the Secretary of State who will actually grant the visas.  But the policy direction for those will, indeed, come from Homeland Security. 

We've had an excellent relationship with Governor Ridge and his staff thus far.  Secretary Powell certainly will continue to have that type of relationship if Governor Ridge is the Director of Homeland Security or whoever else is chosen by our President.

[ ... ]


Released on November 13, 2002