Several individuals who were sacked during the Trump administration’s last days for severe security breaches and failings have been quickly rehired by the Biden administration. According to a Just the News investigation, the US Agency for Global Media, which houses Voice of America and sponsors nonprofit broadcasters in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, rehired someone who quit before an inquiry into him was completed.
“They were depicted in the media as whistleblowers defending journalistic ethics against political appointees who attempted to control coverage.” Just the News said that “official summaries of their investigations by an independent law firm, just placed into the Congressional Record, undermine that story.”
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Many of the alleged infractions stemmed from the agency’s ongoing conduct of background checks on employees — many of whom were foreign nationals — for several years after losing its “delegated authority” from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Investigators from the McGuireWoods law firm noted in documents dated Dec. 9, 2020 that the rehired officials were also given their security clearances during that period. McGuireWoods was hired to conduct an investigation into possible mismanagement or worse at USAGM.
According to the Federal News Network, delegated power is uncommon outside of the intelligence sector. After years of warnings, OPM aggressively prohibited the agency from conducting its own reviews in 2020, a spokeswoman claimed it was the first such move in more than 20 years.
The USAGM’s excessive use of the J-1 visa program, which is designed largely for au pairs, students, and other “exchange tourists,” to fill journalist and technical positions exacerbated the security concerns. When departing CEO Michael Peck arrived in mid-2020, he warned his inspector general that the agency was just “rubber-stamping” applications and renewals.
According to a former political appointee to Just the News, career adjudicators recommended that the workers be fired based on McGuireWoods findings as well as the USAGM’s own investigations.
“Where would I go if I were a spy?” Because of its supposedly inadequate background checks, which subsequently offer quick access to numerous other federal agencies owing to reciprocity agreements involving security clearances, the appointee remarked rhetorically: “Obviously this agency.”
Pack told the news site that when he and his team arrived, they were “inundated with genuine whistleblowers,” adding that half of them were too afraid of reprisal to put their claims in writing, and those who did had experienced retaliation since the Biden administration took office.
The appointee told Just the News that it’s mind-boggling how the ousted senior officials “present themselves as whistleblowers when they’re not.” According to Just the News, USAGM will not comment on particular findings in the McGuireWoods investigation reports.
Meanwhile, Laurie Moy, the State Department’s Director of Public Affairs, cited a 2021 review by the Office of Inspector General, which found that the agency “has taken actions to address long-standing deficiencies identified by OPM and [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] with the personnel suitability and national security determination processes.”
“The people in question were wrongfully targeted in reprisal for making protected disclosures, and their security clearances were unlawfully suspended,” the office said. In accordance with the OIG’s findings, USAGM has rehired the wrongfully targeted people,” Moy wrote in an email. According to an inquiry report, General Counsel David Kligerman “resisted implementing the personnel security standards” for a government-wide guideline on identifying “national security posts.”
“Hostile foreign intelligence agencies have positioned operatives within [USAGM] to gain credibility as a trusted government employee” and apply for federal posts elsewhere that “handle with more sensitive subjects,” according to one security officer. Instead, Kligerman asked for a waiver that “appears to have resulted in workers obtaining incorrect background checks, as well as delaying grantee re-evaluation, raising concerns about foreign national individuals receiving greater clearance than may have been acceptable.”
According to his investigative report, the official who prematurely resigned, general counsel David Kligerman “resisted implementing the personnel security standards” for a government-wide law on identifying “national security roles.”
Previously, “hostile foreign intelligence agencies have put operatives within [USAGM] to gain credibility as a trusted government employee” and apply for federal posts elsewhere that “handle with more sensitive subjects,” according to a security officer.
Kligerman instead requested a waiver that “appears to have resulted in staff obtaining incorrect background checks, as well as delaying grantee re-evaluation, raising concerns about foreign national individuals receiving greater clearance than may have been warranted.”
Investigators discovered “many incidents” of Kligerman neglecting to react to workers who sent him paperwork, agreements, and rules to examine, often for months at a time, if at all. One of these allegedly included a government employee who was elevated as a reward for “covering for different illegalities.”
Another was new information on a legislation that prohibits state-funded media from showing anything to Americans unless they specifically request it. Even after The New York Times published the news on Radio Free Europe (RFE) targeting Facebook advertisements to Americans, Kligerman sat on it for a year.