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Context of 'July 19, 2002: US Finally Ends Controversial Visa Program in Saudi Arabia'

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Faced with growing criticism of its Visa Express program, the State Department decides to change the program’s name in early July 2002. When that fails to satisfy critics, the program is abandoned altogether on July 19. The Visa Express program allowed anyone in Saudi Arabia to apply for US visas through their travel agents instead of having to show up at a consulate in person. [Washington Post, 7/11/2002] Mary Ryan, the head of the State Department’s consular service that was responsible for letting most of the hijackers into the US, is also forced to retire. It has been pointed out that Ryan deceived Congress by testifying that “there was nothing State could have done to prevent the terrorists from obtaining visas.” However, after all this, Ryan and the other authors of the Visa Express program are given “outstanding performance” awards of $15,000 each. The reporter who wrote most of the stories critical of Visa Express is briefly detained and pressured by the State Department. [Washington Times, 10/23/2002; Philadelphia Daily News, 12/30/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Mary Ryan, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The chief judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California sends news articles about US Attorney for the Northern District of California Kevin Ryan (see August 2, 2002) to Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis. For some time, San Francisco newspapers have reported on turmoil and turnover in Ryan’s office, with several experienced prosecutors leaving, allegedly due to Ryan’s management style. The judge complains to Margolis about Ryan’s leadership style. Margolis discusses the situation with Mary Beth Buchanan, the head of the Executive Office of US Attorneys, and they decide to discuss the issue with Ryan. However, they take no immediate action. [US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 9/29/2008] Buchanan will later say: “The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California had a long history of problems. The problems in the office predated Kevin Ryan’s tenure as the United States Attorney. Shortly after Kevin Ryan became the United States Attorney, there were discussions about his management style. I don’t recall exactly when these communications came to the attention of the Executive Office. What I can tell you is that, at some point, these communications escalated, and there were letters that were sent to the deputy attorney general, there were numerous newspaper articles that appeared in the press. And after the escalation of these concerns, I meet [sic] with Kevin Ryan and his first assistant along with David Margolis in an attempt to address some of the management concerns.… I know that Kevin Ryan had a number of significant computer crime and intellectual property cases, so I think that there were certainly good things that were done in Mr. Ryan’s office.” [US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, 6/15/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kevin J. Ryan, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), US Department of Justice, David Margolis, Mary Beth Buchanan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The latest of several experienced prosecutors quits his job at the office of US Attorney Kevin Ryan of the Northern District of California (see August 2, 2002). The prosecutor sends an office-wide “open letter” to Ryan complaining about long-standing morale and attrition problems, and credits Ryan’s poor management style with creating the issue. The letter is quickly forwarded to staff members in other US Attorneys’ offices, and to the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA) in the Justice Department. Complaints about Ryan have already been forwarded to the EOUSA (see Fall 2004). The chief judge in Ryan’s district, who made the earlier complaint, sends Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis the open letter and asks him to consider the issue. Margolis and EOUSA chief Mary Beth Buchanan schedule a meeting with Ryan and his First Assistant US Attorney for March 21. Margolis will later say of the meeting that he “read [Ryan] the riot act” about the issues in his office, and suggests that Ryan should ask the Justice Department to undertake a special review of his management issues. Margolis will later say that Ryan does not request such a review. [US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 9/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Kevin J. Ryan, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), Mary Beth Buchanan, David Margolis, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Deputy Attorney General James Comey expresses his concerns with US Attorney Kevin Ryan (see Fall 2004 and January 31 - March 21, 2005) to Kyle Sampson, the deputy chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (see February 15, 2005) and the person in charge of the Justice Department’s planned purge of US Attorneys. On his initial list of US Attorneys, Sampson labeled Ryan as “strong” and did not list him as ripe for ousting (see January 9, 2005 and March 2, 2005). Comey tells Sampson that he considers Ryan a weak performer based on the documented morale problems in the office. Other Justice Department officials such as Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis and Executive Office for US Attorneys chief Mary Beth Buchanan share similar concerns with Sampson around this time. Comey tells Sampson that he knows Buchanan’s office is concerned about Ryan and is working with Margolis to address the problems. [US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 9/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), David Margolis, US Department of Justice, D. Kyle Sampson, James B. Comey Jr., Kevin J. Ryan, Mary Beth Buchanan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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