- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Department of Homeland Security officials cut too many corners when they deployed additional agents to Portland, Oregon, over the summer to quell riots near the federal courthouse, the department’s inspector general said in a new report this week, delivering the latest blow over the aggressive federal response.

Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari said agents and officers were deployed without assurances they had received training beforehand on the legal authority they were acting under.

Some of those personnel ended up using force against demonstrators while in Portland, the audit found.

The deployment was particularly thorny given the clashing legal perspectives about Homeland Security’s role. Federal judges in Oregon have slapped injunctions on federal police, limiting the kinds of actions they can take and, as of this week, declaring most of the city a no-go zone for federal officers using crowd control tactics.

Mr. Cuffari said the slip-up came with the head of the Federal Protective Service, an agency that oversees security at federal buildings.

He tried to designate people from the Transportation Security Administration, Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — all fellow security agencies within the department. But the Federal Protective Service bungled the procedures and didn’t properly designate the additional agents and officers, Mr. Cuffari concluded.

Not only did the agency not properly list the specific personnel from other agencies who were drafted to help, but there also was no guarantee they received the training the Federal Protective Service’s own procedures required.

The Department of Homeland Security vehemently rejected the audit’s conclusions.

The department’s acting general counsel said the list of designations had to be “dynamic” because of the fast-changing nature of the protests and the threat to federal buildings.

The lawyer said the inspector general’s interpretation of the law governing designations was “flawed” and said the audit didn’t find any specific officers or agents who missed out on the training.

But Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the audit was another strike against the department’s handling of the summer’s protests.

“The violations uncovered by the inspector general are part of a pattern of DHS serving the president’s political aims rather than following the law,” the Mississippi Democrat said.

He said Homeland Security needs to tread carefully as it ponders new deployments in response to Election Day demonstrations.

The inspector general’s audit also renewed warnings over the broader legal situation at the department, where some investigators — and courts — have found acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf is not properly serving in his position.

Those findings could taint dozens of official actions the department has taken over the year Mr. Wolf has been designated as the acting chief.

The legal questions stem from the chaotic leadership chart at the department, beginning with President Trump’s decision to oust Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in spring 2019.

The White House arranged to have Kevin McAleenan, who at the time had been head of CBP, to become acting secretary. Mr. McAleenan later issued a new succession chart that left Mr. Wolf in position to become acting secretary when Mr. McAleenan departed.

One federal court in California has ruled Mr. Wolf not properly installed, while another federal court in Maryland concluded he is legally acting as secretary.

The inspector general urged Homeland Security to clean up the situation.

Mr. Wolf has been nominated to serve as secretary and cleared the Senate Homeland Security Committee in September, but he has not been granted a vote in the full Senate.

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