Thursday, April 06, 2006

Vetting DHS employees

The arrest two nights ago of DHS Deputy Press Secretary, Brian Doyle, on charges of soliciting sex from a minor, has rightly prompted the Congress to launch a probe of the department's hiring practices. As disturbing as it is that an official at a department that, among other things, goes after child predators among the illegal immigrant population, the most alarming thing about the episode is the specter it raises of whether terrorists or terrorist sympathizers might likewise have escaped the scrutiny of those who vet new hires.

So, it was with great interest (and alarm) that I read in this morning's Washington Times that the former head of security at the department's Citizenship and Immigration bureau will testify before a House subcommittee today that "an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen suspected of being a foreign intelligence agent was employed by (the bureau) to rule on asylum aplications, including those from unfriendly Middle Eastern nations." The agent is said to have ruled on 180 applications while at the bureau.

During my time as DHS Inspector General, I had planned, if my tenure lasted long enough, to investigate how thoroughly the "CIS" bureau checks applicants for citizenship, green cards, and asylum against terrorist watch lists. DHS being DHS, I suspected that, all too often, there were no checks at all, or the checks weren't thorough enough. It remains to be seen whether the charges we shall hear today turn out to be true. But, if so, it will prove that the department charged with securing the nation against terrorist penetration can itself be penetrated and compromised by terrorism. Can it get any worse?