Investigative report eyes DHS IG

Some apparent missteps of the DHS IG are scrutinized in recent investigative efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security’s controversial Inspector General, Joseph V. Cuffari, this month got hit with yet another critical investigative report.

For months, Cuffari has been dinged for mishandling—or, as critics allege, actively interfering with—ongoing probes into the actions of DHS’s Secret Service unit around the time of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Dissatisfaction with the IG’s work has come along with months of revelations of his office’s stumbles in scrutinizing the presidential security force—including an inexplicable failure to try to produce agents’ missing cell phone text messages for analysis, or even to publicly report them missing.

The Washington Post has published an investigative report on something that could spell even more problems for the IG: Cuffari’s checkered behavior leading up to his securing his job. The report follows prior investigative pieces—published by the Project On Government Oversight, the New York Times and the Washington Post in August—which together paint a damaging picture of the IG and his staff blunting—with cheerleading from a handful of GOP lawmakers—their own probe into the Secret Service.

“On April 1, attorneys working in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General approved five detailed paragraphs of language that would have alerted Congress to the Secret Service’s deletion of texts related to January 6, according to new documents obtained by the [POGO] and congressional staffers on multiple committees,” the original August POGO piece states. “Yet Inspector General Joseph Cuffari never sent this detailed alert. Instead, the records show that Cuffari not only failed to alert Congress in a timely way about the erased texts, but failed to adopt his staff’s explicit recommendations that he do so.”

In one potentially damaging new revelation in the latest Post piece about Cuffari's career, for example, the authors note that to gain confirmation he testified before the Senate that a federal watchdog panel had cleared him for his post. Yet now an unnamed insider on the panel tells reporters this claim was not true.

In another possible blot on his record, that exposé unearths a little-noticed ethics violation Cuffari committed on a job he held in Arizona, according to a past employer cited in a long-buried government finding.

The same piece also confirms that to buttress his executive-level bona fides, Cuffari frequently emphasized to colleagues and employers alike that he had earned a Ph.D.—yet that doctoral degree appears to have been the product of a known “diploma mill” institution.

Against these more recently unearthed demerits, the new report allows that a number of Cuffari’s boosters continue, at least in the standing record, to hold him in high esteem. However, it is possible that, like the general public until recent months, those who vouch for him now and did in the past had yet to gain access to his full story—including factual, derogatory information about him. The piece also notes that several key Democratic lawmakers who originally voted to confirm him are now urging him to step down.

President Biden, who has the power to remove inspectors general, to date has made no move to do so. Cuffari has indicated to his staff that he has no intention of voluntarily stepping down.

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