WASHINGTON -- Mary Ryan, a State Department diplomat whose stellar career came to an end when she was embroiled in a post-Sept. 11 dispute over whether US visa standards had grown lax under her watch, died April 25 of myelofibrosis at her home. She was 65.
An assistant secretary of state, she was the longest-serving diplomat in the State Department at the time of her resignation in September 2002, after 36 years of service. Secretary of State Colin Powell asked for her resignation after she had served for nine years as head of consular affairs, which oversees the visa-issuing process.
Officially, the State Department said Ms. Ryan's exit was part of a normal rotation for someone who had agreed to stay in the post from the previous administration, but some Capitol Hill lawmakers had been clamoring for her departure. They complained that she did not seem to realize the visa system needed to change because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The object of their ire was a program called ''visa express," which allowed residents in Saudi Arabia to obtain visas through travel agents. Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the program and were not interviewed by a US official when they received their visas. A visa fraud scheme at the US Embassy in Qatar added fuel to the accusations made by her critics.