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Homeland Security Has Spent $430 Million on Radios Its Employees Don’t Know How to Use

 
By Theodoric Meyer
ProPublica

Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished.

DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.

Only one of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general’s office was actually able to use the common channel, according to the report. Most of those surveyed — 72 percent — didn’t even know the common channel existed. Another 25 percent knew the channel existed but weren’t able to find it; 3 percent were able to find an older common channel, but not the current one.

The investigators also found that more than half of the radios did not have the settings for the common channel programmed into them. Only 20 percent of radios tested had all the correct settings.

The radios are supposed to help employees of Customs and Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, and other agencies with DHS communicate during crises, as well as normal operations.

DHS officials did not immediately respond to questions from ProPublica about what effect the radio problems could have on how the agency handles an emergency.

The $430 million paid for radio infrastructure and maintenance as well as the actual radios.

In a response letter to the report, Jim H. Crumpacker, the Department of Homeland Security’s liaison between the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general, wrote that DHS had made “significant strides” in improving emergency communications since 2003. But he acknowledged that DHS “has had some challenges in achieving Department-wide interoperable communications goals.”

The recent inspector general’s report is the latest in a string of critical assessments DHS has received on its efforts to improve communication between federal, state and local agencies. The Government Accountability Office reported in 2007 that the Department of Homeland Security had “generally not achieved” this goal.

DHS has assigned a blizzard of offices and committees to oversee its radio effort since 2003, which the inspector general’s report claimed had “hindered DHS’ ability to provide effective oversight.”

Also, none of the entities “had the authority to implement and enforce their recommendations,” the report concluded. Tanya Callender, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the current office overseeing the effort hadn’t been given the authority to force agencies to use the common channel or even to provide instructions for programming the radios.

The inspector general recommended DHS standardize its policies regarding radios, which DHS agreed to do. But it rejected a second recommendation that it overhaul the office overseeing the radios to give it more authority.

“DHS believes that it has already established a structure with the necessary authority to ensure” that its various agencies can communicate, Crumpacker wrote in his response letter.

ProPublica is a non-profit investigative journalism website.

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Defense Attorney Alleges Undercover FBI Agent Spent $25,000 on Strip Clubs and Prostitutes for Himself and Targets

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The pre-trial battle continues in a Los Angeles case in which the defense claims an undercover FBI agent spent taxpayer dollars on prostitutes in the Phiippines for himself and three targets of a gun trafficking sting.

The latest: Federal defender John Littrell filed a motion Tuesday on behalf of his client Sergio Santiago Syjuco accusing the undercover agent of spending more than $25,000 “on strip clubs and prostitutes in this investigation.” He is asking that the judge dismiss the gun-trafficking case because of egregious government misconduct.

The government has denied wrongdoing and denied that the agent ever spent money on a prostitute.

The motion states:

The government does not dispute that the undercover agent spent $14,500.00 of taxpayer dollars in strip clubs and brothels in Manila. It does not deny this taxpayer money went toward alcohol consumed by the agents, as well as the fees of  “hostesses” that accompanied the undercover agent and his cover team. Since the motion to dismiss was filed in September 2012, the government has acknowledged that several thousand dollars more was spent in strip clubs and brothels in Manila.

And defense investigation has revealed that the undercover agent spent thousands of additional dollars beyond that at various strip clubs and brothels in the United States and the Philippines that the government has not disclosed to the defense. Taking into account the additional expenses that government disclosures and independent investigation has revealed, the total that the government appears to have spent on strip clubs and prostitutes in this investigation rises to more than $25,000.00.

The government offers no apology for its expenditures, despite clear evidence that the money went to brothels such as Area 51 in Manila that are known to betrafficking in under-aged prostitutes. The government contends that the undercover agent did not solicit prostitutes for himself, but defense witnesses who will testify at the hearing dispute that claim. Although the government argues that the undercover agent did not see prostitution engaged in first hand, and he was not explicitly told that the exorbitant bills that he was paying included the cost of that prostitution, it does not deny that the agent, based on his experience,training, and common sense, knew that he was paying for prostitutes, and did so intentionally.

Finally, the government argues, even assuming its agent did solicit prostitutes, his conduct was not so outrageous as to justify dismissal of the indictment because the prostitutes didn’t form “intimate” relationships with the defendants. This argument completely ignores the harm that the agent’s conduct had on the victims.

To read filing click here. 

 

Feds Seek forfeiture of home of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Accused of Bank Fraud

Judge Diane Hathaway/court photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 DETROIT — An FBI investigation has prompted the federal government to seek forfeiture of the home of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway on accusations that she and her husband defrauded a bank of $600,000 in mortgage debt, the Detroit News reports

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade ‘s office wrote in a criminal complaint that Hathaway and her husband, attorney Michael Kingsley, “systematically and fraudulently transferred property and hid assets in order to support their claim to (ING Direct) that they did not have the financial resources to pay the mortgage on the Michigan property.”

McQuade and her husband are accused of money laundering and bank fraud.

The Republican Party has called on McQuade to resign but to no avail.

If Hathaway resigns, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder could replace her in a special election that could give the GOP a 5-2 majority on the court, the Detroit News reported.