Revelations about domestic violence and sexual misconduct within the Department of Homeland Security were removed from a still-unfinished report at the direction of the department’s inspector general and his top aides, according to an investigation published Thursday by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and verified by The New York Times.
The report makes clear that sexual misconduct is rampant throughout the DHS. More than 10,000 employees of Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration said they had been subjected to sexual harassment or misconduct in the workplace, according to an unpublished draft of the report from December 2020. The number is more than one-third of the 28,000 employees who responded to the survey, according to POGO.
Less than a quarter of the 10,000 employees who reported sexual misconduct formally reported the incidents, and nearly half of those who did said it “negatively affected their careers.”
The draft report also detailed agencies paying off accusers, including a cash payment $255,000 to a CPB employee who claimed her boss sexually harassed her and asked her for sex, and then retaliated against her refusal by denying her work opportunities. Senior officials suggested this removed be removed the report, as well as other evidence pertaining to sexual misconduct. Also removed, at the direction of Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, were parts of a draft report about how employees received were not disciplined for domestic violence, as well as how the agencies had “put victims and the public at risk of further violence” by not confiscating perpetrators’ firearms.
Cuffari, whom former President Donald Trump appointed in 2019, has a history of this sort of thing. He blocked investigations that Secret Service staff proposed into the agency’s use of tear gas and sting-ball grenades to violently disperse those protesting police brutality near the White House in 2020. He blocked an investigation into the spread of Covid-19 within the Secret Service. He slow-rolled an inquiry into a retaliation complaint from a DHS employee who says he was demoted for criticizing the Trump administration. (The employee, Brian Murphy, would go on to file a whistleblower complaint alleging a litany of wrongdoing going far beyond workplace retaliation.)
The survey about sexual misconduct began before Cuffari was on the job, and asked respondents about their experiences from 2012 to 2018. The survey ended in October 2019.
Upon learning of the POGO report, DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated in a memo that it “underscore[s] the need for immediate action.” Accordingly, he said he is directing his general counsel to initiate a “45-day review of the employee misconduct discipline processes currently in effect throughout DHS and to recommend any necessary improvements, including to ensure these processes align with relevant best practices and are consistent with all applicable laws.”
“It is our responsibility to provide every D.H.S. employee with a professional environment free of sexual harassment and other misconduct,” Mayorkas added.
The DHS inspector general’s office, which Cuffari still leads, told The New York Times in a statement that “all reports initiated and published during” Cuffari’s tenure “meet appropriate quality standards.”