DHS Background Check Questioned
Friday, April 7, 2006
The Department of Homeland Security official arrested Tuesday on charges of seducing a minor over the Internet faced disciplinary action at his previous workplace, Time magazine's Washington bureau, for misusing company equipment to download pornography, friends and former colleagues said.
Federal officials would not say whether the incident came to the attention of federal investigators who conducted a background check in 2004 on Brian J. Doyle, 55. Originally hired as a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration in 2002, he was detailed to Homeland Security the next year and became deputy press secretary cleared to handle top-secret material in November 2005, a department spokeswoman said.
Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who has launched a congressional investigation into DHS hiring practices and security protocols, said Doyle's conduct should have been uncovered. King said the arrest revealed a threat to national security because it showed Doyle could be compromised by foreign agents.
"It's easy for me to stand on the sidelines and criticize . . . but if there was an incident at Time magazine, Homeland Security above all should have found it," King said. "Homeland Security is our last line of defense, and to be taken seriously, you have to have very, very strict security standards."
Doyle was in a Montgomery County jail yesterday. His attorney, Barry Helfand, said he received an anonymous allegation about the incident but could not comment until he had a chance to investigate and speak with his client. Doyle, of Silver Spring, has not entered a plea but has waived extradition to Polk County, Fla., where undercover detectives conducted the computer sex sting operation, Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Three people said in separate interviews that, between 1999 and 2001, Doyle viewed pornography on Time's computers, was caught and faced discipline, and that bureau colleagues circulated a petition or letter in his defense.
Although U.S. Office of Personnel Management investigators interviewed Time supervisors and co-workers, an OPM official would not say whether they uncovered the incident or whether it would have been grounds for rejecting Doyle.
"It's difficult to zero in on a type of behavior, but certainly every source is asked whether an individual has anything in the background that makes them susceptible to blackmail, coercion or illegal conduct," or otherwise a risk to national security, said Kathy Dillaman, associate director for the OPM's Federal Investigative Services division.
"This type of deviant conduct, most people wouldn't brag or talk about this to their associates. It would be very difficult if you don't have records on file," said Dillaman, whose agency conducts background checks for Homeland Security. "I think a co-worker would be expected to provide information on any conduct they were aware of or personally observed," she said.
The federal security clearance application form explicitly asks about alcohol or drug use and criminal and medical histories dating back at least seven years for top-secret clearance. Judd and FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said that their agencies require potential employees to undergo polygraph testing.
Doyle, a bureau employee from 1975 to 2001, took a voluntary early-retirement package, Time spokesman Ty Trippet said. Trippet would not comment further, saying, "We don't discuss personnel matters." An aide to Time Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney referred questions to Trippet. Assistant Managing Editor Michael Duffy, who was bureau chief and Doyle's supervisor at the time, did not return calls to his office phone and cellphone.
Three individuals who know Doyle and who said they do not recall being contacted by investigators spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of legal exposure or consequences from their current employers. Two expressed anger about how Doyle's situation was handled given his arrest.
A third said it was not obvious that Doyle's conduct at Time should have barred his security clearance, since it apparently did not involve minors or raise criminal concerns.