Exposing the Dept. of Job Security (who is Philip Perry?)
Source: Project on Government oversight
URL Source: http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2007/02/exposing_the_de.html
Richard Skinner, Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and David Walker, Comptroller General with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), appeared today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to discuss management and contract problems within DHS. The particular programs under scrutiny were the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) and Deepwater, but the hearing also highlighted more fundamental concerns about contracting and transparency in the Department.
In his written testimony (pdf) for a similar hearing yesterday in the House Homeland Security Committee, Walker stated:
...DHS has not made its management or operational decisions transparent enough so that Congress can be sure it is effectively, efficiently, and economically using the billions of dollars in funding it receives annually, and is providing the levels of security called for in numerous legislative requirements and presidential directives. Our work for Congress assessing DHS’s operations has been significantly hampered by long delays in granting us access to program documents and officials, or by questioning our access to information needed to conduct our reviews. We are troubled by the impact that DHS’s processes and internal reviews have had on our ability to assess departmental programs and operations. Given the problems we have experienced in obtaining access to DHS information, it will be difficult for us to sustain the level of oversight that Congress has directed and that is needed to effectively oversee the department, including the level of oversight needed to assess DHS’s progress in addressing the existing transformation, integration, and programmatic challenges identified in this statement.
Walker’s testimony further relates that these sort of impediments were encountered during his investigation of the Deepwater and SBI programs. A Tuesday article by Chris Strohm for the publication CongressDaily looks at one of the main individuals at DHS behind both Skinner and Walker’s investigative difficulties:
Walker said the problem is "systemic" and not the fault of any single individual. But he complained that GAO has had to go through the office of General Counsel Philip Perry. Perry is married to Elizabeth Cheney, a former State Department official who is one of the vice president's two daughters. Walker said it is his understanding that people from Perry's office have to review documents GAO seeks before they are released and selectively sit in on interviews with department employees.
"When you have more lawyers in a meeting than program people, you know you got a problem. Something needs to be done about this," Walker said. "There needs to be an understanding that if the general counsel's office is going to get involved, it's clearly got to be the exception rather than the rule," he added. "Right now the system is structured to delay, delay, delay ... We haven't had a situation where they refuse information but it might take months to get it."
Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner said his investigations have also been hindered. "We're experiencing the same problem," said Skinner, who added his office is "oftentimes" told who they can interview and that it sometimes takes weeks to get documents.
Perry’s questionable behavior extends far beyond nepotism and delaying investigations. He’s also a pro at jumping back and forth between government and the private sector, doing what he can to benefit industry along the way. After Bush became president, Perry moved from being a junior partner at the DC law firm Latham & Watkins to holding the position of Associate-Attorney General for the Department of Justice. He then moved to the Office of Management and Budget as General Counsel, where he had a hand in drafting plans for DHS. In 2003, he returned to Latham & Watkins as a member of their Homeland Security practice group and lobbied on behalf of Lockheed Martin and other companies.
An article by Art Levine in the most recent addition of the Washington Monthly chronicles Perry’s exploits over the course of his career. By the time Perry joined DHS, he was a veteran advocate for the chemical industry and government contractors, and he had also made the right connections in government. Levine states:
Enter Philip Perry. When Michael Chertoff was nominated to head the DHS in 2005, he had asked Perry to join him as the department’s general counsel. The two were not only colleagues at Latham & Watkins but also members of the conservative Federalist Society, and they were of like minds in their general distrust of government regulation of business. By the summer of 2006, as various bills competed for attention, Perry’s services were in great demand. “Industry went back to the well,” says one DHS official.
To no surprise, Perry’s “revolving door” habits haven’t ended with his position at DHS. Secretary Chertoff announced on Jan. 23 that Perry would be resigning from DHS by Feb. 6, presumably to rejoin his old law firm. Although Perry’s exit will undoubtedly be an improvement for DHS accountability, the enormous problems that he had a hand in creating at the Department still remain.
Today’s hearing on DHS is proof of that fact. Members of the House Committee, particularly Reps. Kucinich, Duncan, and Hodes, condemned the extensive underhanded dealings between industry and government officials that have resulted in huge losses for taxpayers. Rep. Duncan proclaimed at one point that the Deepwater and SBI programs are “emblematic” of the contracting problems discussed in yesterday’s NYT editorial.
Furthermore, the GAO and DHS Inspector General’s concerns have kept the Department on GAO's “high-risk” list (pdf), meaning that the stakes involved are high and much remains to be accomplished. As Congress continues with its hearings and investigations, it’s also possible that even more problems and cases of corruption will come to light. Finally, if his past is any prelude to the future, Perry will return to the scene like a villain in a low-budget horror movie sequel.
From what we've found, it appears Philip Perry may have also been involved with the Ramos/Compean prosecution and resulting 'confusion' over statements, testimony, investigation by Homeland Security. Perry resigned this month to 'spend more time with family'.
Remember Skinner is the one who admitted to congressmen last week that Homeland Security had 'misled them' about statements Ramos and Compean made to the Homeland security investigator.
Perry's wife Elizabeth (daughter of Dick Cheney), was #2 at the State Dept for Mid eastern affairs until recently.