The Washington Post

Graham Spanier’s gig as a federal employee is a mystery

Former Penn State University president Graham Spanier, public servant? (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Only a disgraced public figure would consider joining the much-maligned ranks of the federal workforce as a step up, reputation-wise. We can assume there were no openings for a used-car salesman.

Spanier was faulted in an internal Penn State report after the conviction on child-molestation charges of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The report said he, head coach Joe Paterno and others helped cover up Sandusky’s abuse.

His lawyer confirms to the Loop that Spanier is working on a part-time consulting basis for a “top-secret” agency on national security issues. But the gig is so hush-hush, he couldn’t even tell his attorneys the name of the agency. In April — months after his ouster as president but before the release of the internal report — he told the Patriot-News of central Pennsylvania that he was working on a “special project for the U.S. government relating [to] national security.”

But who’s he working for? The CIA? Homeland Security? Or maybe just a dull consulting firm with a government contract?

“I have no idea,”says his lawyer, Peter Vaira. “We know the work is in security and he’s prohibited from disclosing which agency or agencies he’s working for.”

After the internal report was released, Spanier complained in a statement from his attorneys that the document didn’t make mention of his government clearance — something he apparently thought was evidence of his trustworthiness. He noted that his security clearance (which he apparently had first obtained while at Penn State) “required a re-review when the Sandusky matter surfaced in November” and that federal investigators conducted their own probe of his role in the Sandusky scandal. The federal investigation ended with his security clearance being “reaffirmed,” the statement read.

The Office of Personnel Management, essentially the federal government’s human-resources department, didn’t shed any light on Spanier’s mysterious gig as a possible federal employee. They instructed us to call individual agencies, even though we pointed out that we didn’t know which agencies to contact.

Have you spotted Spanier, sporting a government ID on a lanyard and carrying a brown-bag lunch? Let us know at

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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