- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2014

When EPA officials began having doubts in 2012 about John Beale — a top adviser who bizarrely claimed he was missing work because he was on secret CIA spy missions — they didn’t go to the agency’s inspector general for an investigation.

Instead, they went to the Environmental Protection Agency’s little-known office of homeland security to check out Beale’s story.

Beale’s ruse eventually unraveled, but questions have emerged in the wake of his time and attendance fraud case about the role of the EPA’s homeland security operation.

The office has no law enforcement or investigative authority, according to a recent memo from the EPA inspector general.

Still, the office has its own special agent and intelligence adviser, according to the EPA website. EPA officials have suggested that the office might have powers to investigate national security matters inside the agency that the inspector general does not.

The EPA also made its homeland security office the point of contact with the FBI on some EPA investigations. The inspector general’s office says the arrangement infringes on its own turf.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are asking about the homeland security office’s role, particularly in light of complaints from EPA and other agency inspectors general that they are facing problems with oversight.

EPA officials declined to discuss questions about the office.

A House oversight panel will hear testimony Wednesday from an investigator at the EPA inspector general’s office who said she was assaulted when she tried to ask questions last fall at the homeland security office.

Christie Todd Whitman, who as EPA administrator in 2003 created the homeland security office, said she never intended for it to be exempt from oversight by the agency’s inspector general. One of her top appointees said the office was supposed to be a “policy shop,” not a police agency.

“Gov. Whitman did not intend for the office to be held to a different standard than the rest of the agency, and thus subject to the IG,” said Heather Grizzle, spokeswoman for Ms. Whitman, a Republican who was in office from 2001 to 2003 and previously served as New Jersey governor.

Bob Bostock, who served as assistant to the administrator for homeland security at EPA under Ms. Whitman, said the office was meant to be for policy and coordination.

He said the office was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks to avoid overlap and have clear lines of accountability in coordinating with other agencies on homeland security issues.

“I suspect that in the 10-plus years, it’s probably grown beyond what we envisioned,” he said.

Indeed, records unearthed during an investigation by Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, show that the homeland security office went far beyond policy when an EPA attorney gave it the task of digging into Beale’s story in November 2012.

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