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US Homeland Security Department Needs Accountability

Retirement of Inspector General Leaves Dangerous Gap

U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem is pictured at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) located just outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia September 24, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general, John Roth, recently retired, and Congress should take great care in vetting his replacement. The events surrounding Roth’s last weeks in office help illustrate just how important this is.

One of Roth’s last actions in office was to write a report critical of the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Roth’s report was held up for weeks before being provided to Congress. He wrote in a letter to Congress that he was “very troubled” by the move, saying such maneuvers could significantly hamper his office’s ability to hold the agency to account by masking the discovery “of decisions made based on illegitimate considerations, or evidence of outright misconduct.”

The inspector general, a presidentially appointed position, serves as a key watchdog of the DHS.

Roth’s review of DHS’ implementation of the “travel ban”, included damning findings. It concluded that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was given “virtually no warning” that the ban was to be issued and that neither CBP nor the DHS knew “the answers to basic questions as to the scope of the order.” Even more troubling, the report found that CBP “violated two separate court orders” in preventing affected travelers from boarding planes bound to the US.

The former inspector general’s findings are cause for alarm.

Given all this, Congress should closely monitor the DHS and carefully vet the next nominee for inspector general, when one is put forward. Accountability for DHS has never been more important than it is now, and the next inspector general should be up to the task and willing to speak truth to power. 

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