Former DHS Watchdog, A Tyrant, Failure And Alleged Felon, ‘Punished’ With Transfer To Another Government Agency

Charles K. EdwardsTech Dirt – by Tim Cushing

Good news, Americans! The former “top watchdog” for the Department of Homeland Security, Charles K. Edwards, was an incredibly perverse blend of crooked and spineless and yet we still managed to avoid being terrorized to death during his run as Inspector General (2011-2013). That’s the resilience of the American public. Even while the agency was being bumblefucked into (even greater) uselessness, those who hate us for our way of life (which now includes drone strikes, neverending military ‘interventions’ and the constant watching of damn near everybody) were unable to find a way to maneuver around the “security” “provided” by the DHS.    
How can you tell when an investigative report is especially damning? When you can’t even make it through the table of contents without gasping out loud a few times. Get a load of this:

A. Lack of Familiarity with OIG Work
B. Frequent Communications and Personal Relationships with Senior DHS Officials
C. Lack of Independent Legal Advice
D. Improper Alteration or Delay of Reports
1. “Secure Communities” Audit Report
2. “Advance Imaging Technology” Audit Report
3. “Acquisition Management” Audit Report
4. “Secret Service” Investigation and Inspection
5. “Ports of Entry” Audit Report
E. Tainted Audit Reports
F. Apparent Desire for a Permanent IG Position

A. Assistance with Pursuit of a Ph.D
B. Assistance with Employment at Capitol College
C. Assistance with Pursuit of a Permanent IG Position
D. Travel to Florida
E. Misuse of a Government Vehicle
F. Benefits for Ms. Edwards
1. Nepotism in Hiring
2. Telework from India
3. International Phone Calls
4. Staff Assistance for Ms. Edwards

A. Notice of Administrative Leave
B. Destruction of E-mails
C. Deletion or Closing of Hotline Complaints
D. Destruction of Phone Records
E. Retaliation
1. Administrative Leave
2. Poor Performance Review
F. Office Environment

Where do you even start? It’s all terrible. Edwards apparently wined and dined with DHS leaders, giving them heads up on the findings of investigations. So, there’s that, which undermines the oversight. From there, Edwards went to various administration higher-ups and allowed them to control the timing and wording of investigative reports, further subverting the oversight process he was tasked with. 

Beyond the major subversion, there’s tons of minor issues. Nepotism, misuse of department resources, Edwards using the department to pursue a doctorate and a permanent position as an IG… about the only thing not noted in here is supply closet raids. 

Furthermore, it appears Edwards wasn’t even qualified to do the job he absolutely failed to do over a three-year period.

Unlike most IGs, Mr. Edwards does not have experience conducting audits, investigations, or inspections, the three main types of work conducted in an Office of Inspector General.

For example, when interviewed by Subcommittee staff, Edwards was unable to articulate guidelines that govern briefing details of an ongoing investigation to DHS. Edwards stated, “I don’t know that offhand here. You will have to talk to the office – to the Assistant IG for Investigations.”

Not only was he a lousy employee, he was a terrible boss. When not setting up his wife with travel, phones, laptops and a position within the department, he mistreated the rest of his staff — the same staffers he tasked with working on his Ph.D dissertation and documents related to his pursuit of both a position with Capitol College and a permanent IG nomination.

During the Subcommittee’s investigation, current and former OIG employees repeatedly reported that Mr. Edwards had created a hostile work environment. One official characterized the office as a “toxic, totally dysfunctional and oppressive”work environment characterized by low morale, paranoia, and fear. Another official described the atmosphere of the OIG as one of “[c]omplete terror,” such that “there were times that [they] couldn’t even get up out of bed, [they were] soemotionally scared, drained.”

Many employees told the Subcommittee they wanted a change in leadership. According to one official, the OIG staff “want to have a legitimate Inspector General in place to get us back on track.” Another called the office “the worst agency” and said that it has been “run into the ground” under Mr. Edwards’ leadership. Reasons include Mr. Edwards’ reluctance to “seek out advice or guidance from anybody with experience” and that the “people … he surrounds himself with … do not have the background or the experience to be useful to him.”

When faced with low morale, Edwards apparently did what other wholly ineffective leaders do when faced with friction: he retaliated. Staffers claim Edwards routinely placed dissenters on administrative leave or used periodic employee reviews to “get back” at them for their failure to kowtow. 

Allegations (some unsubstantiated) that Edwards broke federal law by destroying emails and documents are also included in the report. There are also allegations that Edwards spied on interoffice communications. A former senior OIG official noted that “nearly all” the communications he received about Edwards’ actions originated from personal email accounts or phones. 

So, what’s to become of Edwards, who completely undercut any sort of independent oversight of the nation’s foremost security agency, along with possibly breaking a handful of federal laws? A whole lot of nothing.

Edwards, a 20-year federal career employee with expertise in computer engineering, resigned his office in December, three days before he was scheduled to appear at a Senate hearing to answer questions. DHS granted his request to be transferred into its office of science and technology, and the hearing was canceled.

Wonderful. Way to send a message, Chief. That will let the government’s Inspector Generals know they’d better be right on that oversight thing OR ELSE [they’ll be transferred to another government agency, no questions asked]. 

The DHS is a joke with no punchline. I’d say DHS head Jeh Johnson has his hands full whipping this disgrace back into some semblance of a respectable government body, but let’s face it, it hasnever been credible during its decade-plus existence. Johnson’s not going to turn this around. The department’s focus is almost entirely on maintaining a credible terrorist threat in order to justify its $39 billion budget and 225,000 employees. That leaves precious little time or resources to clean house. 

People like Edwards who can fill the position while minimizing embarrassing investigative reports are welcomed at the DHS. No one wants to be the guy (or girl) who truly outs the agency as a bloated wreck that does little to nothing in the way of keeping the Homeland secure. Pursuing truly independent oversight just means working your way out of a job.

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