- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

A Department of Homeland Security official charged with using the Internet to solicit sex from a 14-year-old was put on unpaid leave yesterday, as congressional officials announced a probe into the department’s hiring and security clearance policies.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King, New York Republican, said that the arrest of Homeland Security deputy press secretary Brian J. Doyle “raises serious concerns” and that the committee “will conduct an aggressive investigation.”

Mr. Doyle was arrested Tuesday at his Silver Spring home after being caught in a police sting in which a detective from the Polk County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office was pretending to be a 14-year-old girl.

Appearing in a Montgomery County court yesterday, Mr. Doyle offered no plea to charges of using a computer to seduce a child and transmitting harmful materials to a minor through explicit conversations and pornographic movie clips

He remains in custody in Maryland. A May 4 hearing was set to consider whether he shall be extradited to Florida, where penalties for such crimes are stiffer.

Homeland Security press secretary Russ Knocke said, “The department is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation” and takes the accusations against Mr. Doyle “very seriously.”

Mr. Knocke said Mr. Doyle’s security clearance and employee badge have been suspended. A spokeswoman for the department’s Office of Inspector General said her office also is involved in the investigation.

The charges accuse Mr. Doyle of revealing his name and the name of his employer and offering the numbers of his Homeland Security-issued office and cell phones during online conversations.

Mr King’s committee has scheduled a May 18 hearing to examine hiring practices and security clearances, and will review Mr. Doyle’s case in particular.

“Mr. Doyle allegedly used a government-issued computer to provide potentially sensitive information over the Internet to a complete stranger,” Mr. King said.

“What if that person on the other end had been a member of al Qaeda or a similar terrorist organization.”

Mr. Doyle became a member of the department’s press division in the summer. He was hired by the government shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Officials said he is divorced, has no children and lives alone in Silver Spring.

Rockville lawyer Barry H. Helfand, who represented him in court yesterday, said Mr. Doyle most likely would accept extradition to Florida. Mr. Helfand also said he soon would seek to have his client released on bail.

“The guy is well-liked, well thought of and has a great support system,” he said.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said that although he has authority to try the case, he would rather see Mr. Doyle extradited.

“In Florida, he’s looking at a minimum of 17 years in prison,” Mr. Gansler said. “No one would get that in Maryland.”

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