Employees in anonymous letter ask Biden to remove DHS inspector general

A group of employees who work for the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog are calling on President Biden to remove their boss because they have lost hope the “ship will repair itself.”

The request comes after numerous congressional panels asked DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to waive several investigations after he failed to timely warn lawmakers that Secret Service text messages had been “erased” before Jan. 6.

An anonymous letter shared by the Project on Government Oversight was signed by “concerned DHS OIG employees representing every program agency at every level,” adding that “we cannot identify ourselves for fear of retaliation.”

“Providing effective oversight of the newest and third largest cabinet department is hard enough, it shouldn’t be made more difficult by our own leadership,” the staff wrote.

“We need help. We can no longer remain silent when faced with continued mismanagement of DHS OIG at the highest level. IG Cuffari has made it clear that he wants to remain in his position, even despite prolonged, well-deserved criticism in the media, from Congress, from other regulators, and from his own staff. A true leader would recognize the effect of his actions on his staff and understand that it would be the right choice to step aside. IG Cuffari, however, is not a true leader. Rather of which he acts to weaken and undermine his career staff at every step.”

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Cuffari has been under scrutiny for nearly his entire tenure as an inspector general at DHS since he was nominated by former President Trump in 2019 and was tapped for the role after serving as an adviser on military issues to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. (R).

In the past, he has been accused of removing information from OIG reports and failing to respond to a high-profile sexual harassment investigation at DHS or a request to investigate the Secret Service’s role in clearing protesters from Lafayette Park so that Trump was able to take a picture with a Bible in his hand.

But the revelation that he failed to warn Congress about missing January 6 texts, both from Secret Service agents and two agency leaders, has sparked the latest criticism.

The letter sets out a range of issues, many of which have been pieced together in several congressional letters to Cuffari over the years, asking him to justify his decisions.

Employee letter says Cuffari “refuses”[ed] to carry on with important proposed work for no reason”, months or years of postponement of investigations, excluding career staff “so that only he and his inner circle assign most of the assessments”, “interfering with staff efforts to gather information “and “significantly edit reports to remove key findings, which weakens the impact of the reports.”

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The White House did not respond to the request for comment.

In a statement from Cuffari’s office, he pointed to an employment satisfaction survey that indicated increased “employee engagement” throughout his tenure and noted that staff feedback during face-to-face meetings was “overwhelmingly positive.”

“As promised during his confirmation process and hearing, Dr. Cuffari has transformed DHS OIG into a model workplace,” the statement read.

Cuffari has been asked by both the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees to waive his Jan. 6 investigation, “in light of the successive revelations about your failure to conduct this investigation effectively and truthfully communicate with the Congress.”

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The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked the Justice Department to take over the investigation instead.

In response to the committees, Cuffari posted his response publicly and sent it to all DHS OIG staff, which they believe was a warning signal to staff members.

“His actions do not represent this 700-plus workforce. His actions continue to damage his own reputation and that of the DHS OIG. His actions are not the actions of a true leader. His actions embarrass the entire agency. His actions greatly impede and hinder our mission,” the employees’ letter said.

“You are the only one who can help us before DHS OIG is forever damaged by IG Cuffari,” they told Biden.

Updated at 6:22 PM

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