Report Decries A Cozy Relationship Shared By DHS And Watchdog

A Senate panel released a report Thursday that criticizes the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. It accuses him of repeatedly compromising his independence.

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The sprawling department of Homeland Security has been slapped with a scathing report. It says its internal watchdog had a much too cozy relationship with the agency's officials. Today, a Senate panel for the acting inspector general, Charles Edwards, had frequent communications and personal friendships with senior DHS officials.

The panel also said he altered or delayed his office's reports at their request. NPR's Brian Naylor has more.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The inspector general of a government agency is supposed to be independent of that agency. IGs conduct audits to make sure contracts and other financial dealings are done properly and they keep an eye out for fraud and abuse. Their own group, the Council of Inspectors General, has a quality manual devoting several pages to the IGs responsibility to maintain independence so his or her opinions and judgments will be impartial.

But apparently, Charles Edwards didn't get that memo. According to the report issued by the Senate subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight, Edwards socialized with senior Homeland Security officials over drinks and dinner and he sent one official an email in which he called his friendship, quote, "a blessing."

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin requested the subcommittee's report.

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Well, the bottom line is that the acting inspector general, Charles Edwards, was compromised and the reports he was issuing I certainly would not have confidence in.

NAYLOR: Among those reports was an audit of the Secure Communities program in which local law enforcement agencies partner with immigration and customs enforcement to arrest immigration violators. The report discussed whether immigration officials had made misleading statements about the implementation of the program.

When immigration officials asked when the report would be released, Edwards responded, quote, "which day is good?" The subcommittee said it could not substantiate charges that Edwards also directed some derogatory information about Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, to be deleted from another report.

Edwards also acted to make a report on advanced airport scanners used by TSA top secret, severely restricting access to the document at the request of a DHS official. Part of the problem, says Senator Johnson, is that Edwards served as acting inspector general for too long while he was seeking a permanent appointment.

JOHNSON: He was vying for the job of inspector general and he had relationships that were too close to people within the agency that he was supposed to be an independent inspector of.

NAYLOR: Edwards resigned as acting IG in December, although he remains an employee of the department. Last month, the Senate confirmed a new inspector general for Homeland Security, former federal prosecutor John Roth. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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