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Homeland Security puts official on leave

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WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson late Thursday put the agency’s former inspector general on administrative leave, the same day The Washington Post revealed a congressional investigation’s findings that the former watchdog had tailored reports to the liking of senior Obama administration officials.

A Senate investigative report concluded that Charles Edwards, who served as acting inspector general at the agency from 2011 until December 2013, had directed altering and delaying critical investigative reports and audits at the request of top political appointees in the department.

Johnson, who took over as head of the sprawling federal department just four months ago, said he decided he had to temporarily remove Edwards from the workplace pending a final decision on his employment in light of the Senate’s findings. He said he wanted to make clear that ethics is paramount as he addresses problems in the beleaguered department created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Edwards was supposed to have been overseeing the performance of a department with 225,000 employees and a $39 billion annual budget, but instead became cozy with its top leaders and advisers to then-Secretary Janet Napolitano, according to a Senate oversight panel’s investigation.

Edwards had resigned his watchdog post in December, three days before he was supposed to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations subcommittee. But the hearing was canceled when the department agreed to transfer him into the agency’s office of science and technology.

Johnson said he was grateful to Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chair and ranking member of subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight that led the probe, and had asked to have a briefing from their investigators.

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