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April 5, 2006
The Gang That Couldn't Vet Straight

I'm not sure what's going on at the Department of Homeland Security, but significant background checks certainly are not. The agency first slated to be run by Bernard Kerik until the press performed his background check instead of the White House has another winner on its hands, a deputy press secretary with a late-night hobby:

Brian J. Doyle, DOB 4/7/50, the Deputy Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., was arrested this evening at his residence in Silver Springs, Maryland, on 23 Polk County charges related to the use of a computer to seduce a child and transmitting harmful materials to a minor. Doyle's arrest is the result of a joint investigation by the Polk County Sheriff s Office, working with Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jerry Hill s office, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General s Office.

On March 12, 2006, Doyle contacted a 14-year-old girl whose profile was posted on the Internet, and initiated a sexually explicit conversation with her. The girl was actually an undercover Polk County Sheriff s Computer Crimes detective. Doyle knew that the girl was 14 years old, and he told her who he was and that he worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. During future online chats, Doyle gave the undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl his office phone number and his government-issued cell phone number, so that they could have telephone conversations, in addition to their online chatting. Doyle used the Internet to send hard-core pornographic movie clips to the girl and used the AOL Instant Messenger chat service to have explicit sexual conversations with her. The investigation revealed that the phone numbers given to the detective were in fact Doyle s, and that the AOL account used was registered to Doyle. Doyle also sent photos of himself to the detective, which were not sexually explicit but did serve to further positively identify him.

In this case, Doyle's extracurricular activities escaped everyone's attention, including (one supposes) the FBI and its pre-hire background check. It still reflects badly on the White House and the DHS, which is why political appointees such as Doyle are supposed to get a thorough vetting not just for security risks but also for the potential to embarrass the administration they serve. In the future, the Bush team had better learn to vet their candidates a little more thoroughly. Voters may not remember who Jack Abramoff is come November, but they will certainly remember who hired the Dirty Old Man of the DHS.

UPDATE: An anonymous e-mailer says that Doyle was a civil-service employee and not a political appointee, although that sounds strange for a Deputy Press Secretary. Also, I do agree with commenters that point out the difficulty in vetting for perversion, unless Doyle had an arrest record. Still, this kind of scandal forces us to rethink the hiring process in general, especially for prominent position in government.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 5, 2006 5:23 AM

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