Washington Gadfly

DHS Inspector General Interviews Journo Who Exposed ICE Whistleblower Smear Campaign

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General last week interviewed this columnist about his recent conversation with the ICE flack who tried to discredit a whistleblower with confidential material.

No Washington journalist has provided information to government investigators since 1999 — also about a smear campaign, say several DC observers. Back then Christopher Hitchens claimed in an affidavit for Congressional Republicans that Clinton White House aide Sidney Blumenthal  had privately told him Monica Lewinsky was a “stalker.”

Worrying too much about the ethical implications of talking to the IG would have been typical Washington faux moralizing. DC journalists try to act like they are above everybody and everything. The reality is most are often knee deep in the stuff Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple’s wife once got arrested for throwing.

I am a United States citizen and tax payer. I was talking to my government about encountering illegal behavior by a mid-level federal employee. Should a reporter who witnesses a Metro mugging not talk to reporters to maintain his objectivity?

Plus, in the roughly 15 minute conversation with an IG investigator and lawyer I pretty much just recounted my published account of the conversation with ICE press secretary Gillian Christensen.

Responding to a routine inquiry about Taylor Johnson, Christensen repeatedly demanded we talk off the record so she could explain the veteran agent was dishonest and a bad employee.

Christensen readily admitted she was relying on confidential information that could not be discussed on the record. But the federal Privacy Act bars such disclosures, whether public or private.

Inspector General Mark Bell, the IG press office and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Todd Breasseale all ignored questions about the conversation.

Johnson was fired last month after she refused $100,000 in hush money. She had a stellar record with ICE until running afoul of then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2013. His office complained to her Special Agent in charge about Johnson’s refusal to approve special foreign investor visas for Chinese businessmen represented by Reid’s son.

Following the complaints Johnson was stripped of her gun and badge without explanation. In June 2015, she testified about the retaliation before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

The February 9 story here on her dismissal and slimming  prompted the Senate Homeland Security Committee to quickly ask the Office of Inspector General why previous inquiries about Christensen’s apparent violation of the federal Privacy Act were ignored.

The IG first claimed to have no record of the email. But later conceded it was received.

Meanwhile, Johnson is expected to file a complaint against DHS with the Merit System Protection Board this month and has set up a gofundme page for legal fees.