Report: Former DHS Watchdog Too Cozy With Senior Obama Appointees

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 03:24 PM

 

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The former internal watchdog for the Homeland Security Department was too cozy with senior agency officials and improperly rewrote, delayed or classified some critical reports to accommodate President Barack Obama's political appointees, according to a Senate report released Thursday.

The report from a Senate homeland security subcommittee said Charles K. Edwards wasn't qualified for his job and the lacked the independence required of an inspector general. It also said he asked for guidance from senior Homeland Security Department officials, instead of from his own staff.

Edwards was allowed to quietly resign and take another job within the department in December amid the investigation led by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. His transfer was announced just days before he was scheduled to testify before the financial and contracting oversight subcommittee.

Edwards did not respond to an emailed request for comment. He has previously denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesman for the department also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The subcommittee concluded that Edwards changed or delayed multiple reports, including audits focused on Immigration and Customs Enforcement's controversial Secure Communities program, which uses fingerprints collected in local jails to identify immigrants in the country illegally, and the Transportation Security Administration's air passenger screening equipment.

McCaskill and Johnson launched their investigation after whistleblowers complained that Edwards omitted potentially damaging information from a report on the 2012 U.S. Secret Service prostitution scandal. His report concluded that there were no widespread culture problems within the Secret Service.

The Senate subcommittee said it found that some information in the draft report on the Secret Service case was altered or removed from the final report but did not substantiate allegations about Edwards' involvement or motivation for those changes.

While the McCaskill and Johnson investigation proceeded, Edwards' office also was conducting an investigation of Alejandro Mayorkas, who at the time was director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and has since been appointed deputy secretary for DHS.

The subcommittee repeatedly criticized Edwards for his "frequent communications and personal relationships" with senior Homeland Security officials as he conducted investigations and audits. One former employee in Edwards' office said he often bragged about those relationships while talking about his prospects for becoming the agency's permanent inspector general.

Edwards also was accused of seeking legal advice from department's general counsel, despite being required by law to obtain such advice only from his own counsel or from another inspector general, the report said.

He told investigators for the subcommittee that he didn't trust his own lawyer or anyone else in that legal counsel's office.ity subcommittee has issued a 27-page report about Charles K. Edwards. The report says he improperly rewrote, delayed or classified reports to accommodate the department. It says he also asked for guidance from senior Homeland Security Department officials instead of his own staff.

The Inspector General's Office is supposed to operate independently. But the subcommittee report says Edwards often emailed updates on investigations and audits to the department's chief of staff and acting general counsel.

Edwards left his post and took a job in the department late last year.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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