The Washington Post

Homeland Security puts former inspector general on administrative leave

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson put the agency’s former inspector general on administrative leave late Thursday, the same day The Washington Post revealed a congressional investigation’s finding that the former watchdog had tailored reports to the liking of senior Obama administration officials.

A Senate investigative report concluded that Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting inspector general at the agency from 2011 until this past December, had directed altering and delaying critical investigative reports and audits at the request of top political appointees in the department.

Johnson, who took over as head of the sprawling federal department just four months ago, said he decided he had to temporarily remove Edwards from the workplace pending a final decision on his employment in light of the Senate’s findings. He said he wanted to make clear that ethics is paramount as he addresses problems in the beleaguered department, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Edwards oversaw the performance of a department with 225,000 employees and a $39 billion annual budget, but became cozy with its top leaders and advisers to then-Secretary Janet Napolitano, according to a Senate oversight panel’s investigation. Edwards resigned his watchdog post in December, three days before he was supposed to testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations subcommittee. The hearing was canceled when the department agreed to transfer him into the agency’s office of science and technology.

“Since I took office in December, I have made clear that injecting a new energy in the leadership of DHS is a top priority,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have also made clear to our leadership that ethics in government, setting the example, and remaining above reproach are essential elements of good leadership.”

Johnson said he was grateful to Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), the chairman and ranking Republican member of the subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight that led the probe, and had asked to have a briefing from their investigators. He said the two senior department officials who are reported to have conferred most frequently with Edwards about his investigations, Napolitano’s former general counsel, John Sandweg, and her former chief of staff, Noah Kroloff, are no longer with the agency, but “if additional information comes to light, I will continue to take appropriate action.”

Director Johnson said Thursday he values the oversight that an independent inspector general can provide the department, to make sure it carries out “the important mission we are charged with effectively, responsibly, and with the utmost integrity.” Sen. Johnson said in an interview with The Post on Wednesday that he wouldn’t trust any investigations or audits from Edwards’s office.

The agency’s new inspector general, former federal prosecutor John Roth, also signaled a new day Thursday. In an officewide e-mail sent to staff members, Roth said he “appreciated” those who came forward to the Senate to blow the whistle on Edwards. Edwards put three of his staff members on administrative leave after they questioned his orders to delete information from his office’s investigation of Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia — material that would embarrass the Secret Service and the Obama White House.

“Please be assured that you have a right to, and you should, bring improper behavior to the attention of someone who can do something about it,” Roth wrote. “You can always speak to your supervisor, or if you are uncomfortable with that, bring it to our Ombudsperson, AIG Mike Beard, or if that doesn’t work, to me personally.”

Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The big questions after New Hampshire, from The Post's Dan Balz
Can Bernie Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton's strength in the minority community and turn his challenge into a genuine threat? And can any of the Republicans consolidate anti-Trump sentiment in the party in time to stop the billionaire developer and reality-TV star, whose unorthodox, nationalistic campaign has shaken the foundations of American politics?
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.