Washington Gadfly

DHS Blows Off Senate Demand For Smeared Whistleblower Documents

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist

On March 4, the Senate Homeland Security Committee asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to provide all documents concerning the ICE whistleblower fired and secretly smeared after she ran afoul of Senator [crscore]Harry Reid[/crscore].

The deadline was March 18.

Now, it is March 23 and the documents do not appear to have been coughed up. Even though from a technological standpoint they would only take minutes or less to retrieve.

Agency responses to these kind of responds are often late. But the culprit is almost invariably putrescence, not carelessness.

DHS, of course, has not disputed either to the press or to the Senate Homeland Security Committee that its ICE press secretary illegally peddled confidential information to reporters about former Special Agent Taylor Johnson to discredit her. No wonder that, just like everybody does with painful dental work, they are eager to put off the document dump for as long as possible.

But the interesting thing here is that the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), which advocates for more federal transparency, particularly with whistleblowers, repeatedly refused Wednesday to even voice even mild criticism of the DHS recalcitrance.

POGO’s little deaf and dumb routine is a good example of the real reason Washington is so dysfunctional.

The cliché is that Washington is gridlocked and dysfunctional because of intense political differences. Barack Obama’s deceitful explanation of all the stalemates is that intransigent Republicans refuse to put aside their petty concerns about “politics” to work on common sense reforms with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.

Because, of course, common sense is the exclusive domain of the non-partisan Democratic Party!

The more prevalent impediment to progress is that almost nobody in town does the right thing about obvious wrongdoing brought to their attention until speaking out is safe and necessary because the putrescence made the New York Times, Washington Post or Huffington Post.

In yet another testament to journalistic sloth, arrogance and liberal bias, all three outlets are refusing to report the Senate Homeland Security Committee letter.

No wonder that POGO, probably averse to offending one of the players, since DC is an incredibly incestuous town, does not want to get involved.

In an email, POGO’s Congressional Oversight Initiative director Justin Rood said, “I haven’t been following the case so can’t really be helpful.”

Rood clearly has no desire to start following the case. Sure, it involves all kinds of obscure legislation, like the federal Privacy Act and marginal figures such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who precipitated Johnson’s ouster because she would not approve a special foreign investor visa for one of her son’s clients.

But, hey, if the burgeoning scandal is not big enough yet to get you on CNN, who has time for it?

Given his stated ignorance Rood was asked to just comment generally on document requests.

“In my experience, it sometimes takes agencies more than two weeks to respond to a Congressional request for documents and information. The speed of their response can depend on the size of the request, the agency’s practical ability to comply, and the agency’s willingness to comply,” he replied. “All of that said, it is imperative they are responsive to Congressional inquiries in a timely fashion. Oversight doesn’t work otherwise.

“Is that helpful?”

No, actually, not.

The statement, in addition to providing less information than clicking on the relevant Wikipedia entries would have yielded, suggests, without any substantiation, that the DHS delay could be reasonable.

It is generally not a good idea for anybody in Washington to give government agencies the benefit of the doubt, especially in this case where DHS is not even disputing—to the press or IG or Senate Homeland Security Committee — that the ICE press secretary was secretly trying to discredit a whistleblower.

Even more disturbing, this is the kind of spin under the guise of objective analysis that people should expect from ThinkProgress not a non-partisan group.

Maybe this guy is just press shy. Surely, POGO communications director, Ari Goldberg, can provide a straight answer.

His reply to an inquiry from a personal account under the subject header “Daily Caller inquiry” with The Daily Caller article about the Senate Homeland Security Committee request: “Hi. Are you a reporter.”

After all the confusion was cleared up and Goldberg understood his questioner was indeed a reporter, rather than a chimp really good with computers, he forwarded the inquiry to POGO general counsel Scott Amey.

No luck with him either.

So there you have it.

DHS is responsible for safeguarding our nation against terrorism and illegal immigration.

But the Project on Government Oversight is untroubled that, under its charitable scenario, the agency can’t figure out how to get the relevant Senate oversight committee routine emails and employment documents in 19 days and counting.

At least not until Politico calls.

UPDATE: Late Thursday evening, about two hours after being informed this story needed to be filed “right away,” Amey emailed that, “It’s hard to say whether DHS is a slow moving agency or involved in intentional foot dragging. It would be great to say cover up, but maybe DHS is being diligent and it needs more time to report back to the Chairman. I’m less worried about a missed deadline and more worried about an incomplete investigation and zero accountability if someone attacked a whistleblower.”