WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Immigration and Naturalization Service reassigned four midlevel employees Friday in the wake of the agency issuing visa approval notices for two Sept. 11 hijackers six months after they flew airliners into the World Trade Center.
The immigration commissioner, James Ziglar, said the breakdown that led to the notices being issued ``is unacceptable and will not be allowed.'' No one was fired.
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft also asked Congress on Friday to give him back authority to fire INS employees for violating Justice Department rules. That power was not included in the current budget proposal.
``It is essential that I have the authority to quickly discipline or terminate individuals for acts of negligence, mismanagement or disregard for Department of Justice policies,'' Ashcroft said.
The changes at INS, affecting four career employees, came just two days after President Bush ordered Ashcroft to investigate the latest embarrassment to hit the beleaguered agency. Officials did not identify the four employees reassigned, citing privacy laws, but provided the names for their replacements.
Ashcroft has asked the Justice Department inspector general to investigate what happened. The attorney general on Thursday threatened to ``hold individuals accountable,'' and called this week's incident ``inexcusable, in my judgment.''
On Monday, Huffman Aviation in Venice, Fla., received student visa approval forms for Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, two of the terrorists who flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center. The two trained at Huffman in 2000 and early 2001 and applied for visas to attend technical schools.
Immigration officials have said that the visa for Atta, an Egyptian, was approved in July and the visa for Al-Shehhi, from the United Arab Emirates, the following month. The paperwork received by the flight school was a routine repeat of notifications the INS had given the men and the school last summer.
The changes at INS include:
_Renee Harris, former acting deputy chief for the Border Patrol, becomes acting director for international affairs.
_Johnny Williams becomes executive associate commissioner for field operations. He had been regional director for the western region.
_Janis Sposato, former special counsel to the commissioner, becomes assistant deputy executive associate commissioner for immigration services.
_Michael Cronin was named assistant commissioner for inspections. He had been acting executive associate commissioner in the office of programs.