Ex-Clinton staffer 'lost' thousands of White House e-mails, booted by DHS for faking credentials
Posted: July 18, 2011
8:13 pm Eastern
© 2011 WND
Laura Crabtree Callahan
The administration in May quietly hired Laura Callahan for a sensitive post at the U.S. Cyber Command, a newly created agency set up to harden military networks as part of an effort to prevent a "cyberspace version of Pearl Harbor."
The move raises doubts about the administration's vetting process for sensitive security positions. In 2004, Callahan was forced to resign from Homeland Security after a congressional investigation revealed she committed résumé fraud and lied about her computer credentials.
Investigators found that Callahan paid a diploma mill thousands of dollars for her bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in computer science. She back-dated the degrees, all obtained between 2000 and 2001, to appear as if she earned them in 1993, 1995 and 2000, respectively. She landed the job of deputy DHS chief information officer in 2003.
Previously, as a White House computer supervisor, Callahan threatened computer workers to keep quiet about an embarrassing server glitch that led to the loss of thousands of archived emails covered by federal subpoenas pertaining to multiple Clinton scandals.
Former co-workers say they're shocked that Callahan passed a security background check and landed another sensitive post inside the federal government.
"She's a security risk," said a government computer specialist. "I don't know how she got clearance."
"We're fuming about it," said another federal employee. "Knowing her, I don't see how she could ever be 100-percent honest."
A CyberCom spokesman said Callahan could not be interviewed and did not want her "name in public." Asked for Callahan's title, he claimed such information was "personal."
CyberCom, which began operations last year, is part of the U.S. Strategic Command located in Fort Meade, Md.
The Defense Department last week revealed it recently suffered a massive cyberattack, even as it announced a new strategy to actively combat online threats to national security.
Laura Crabtree Callahan testifying before the House Government Reform Committee in the Project X White House e-mail scandal investigation.
In March, hackers working for a foreign government broke into a Pentagon contractor's computer system and stole 24,000 files. Previous cyberattacks have been blamed on China or Russia.
A new Pentagon study stresses the need to fortify network firewalls against enemy hackers. Callahan will be part of that effort at CyberCom, which will lead day-to-day defense and protection of all Defense Department networks.
"She's a dubious hire, to put it charitably," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a government watchdog in Washington that sued the Clinton White House to retrieve missing emails.
As WND first reported, several Northrop Grumman contractors working on the White House computer system testified in early 2000 that Callahan (née Laura Crabtree) threatened to jail them if they talked about the "Project X" email scandal even to their spouses.
One technician, Robert Haas, said she warned him "there will be a jail cell with your name on it" if he breathed a word about the glitch to anybody outside their office.
Chip Sparks, a White House programmer, recounted a run-in he had with Callahan in 1997. After questioning a technical decision she made, he said she wrote him a threatening note.
"Please be advised I will not tolerate any further derogatory comments from you about my knowledge, qualifications and/or professional competence," Callahan blasted Sparks in a March 3, 1997, e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by WND.
An email from Laura Crabtree to Chip Sparks dated March 3, 1997.
Callahan had to do some quick backpedaling after her House testimony. The day after she testified, she sent an affidavit to the House Government Reform Committee, stating: "I wish to clarify that I did discuss e-mail issues with the Department of Justice attorneys in connection with currently pending civil litigation," referring to a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch. She had denied such contacts at the hearing.
Callahan left the White House under an ethical cloud, only to land a top position elsewhere in the Clinton administration. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman made her deputy chief information officer at her agency, and director of its information technology center.
While there, she oversaw the development of the Privacy Assessment Model, which agencies were to use to better protect sensitive personal data managed by the government.
"It's hard for me, having worked with this individual, to believe that she was able to come in there, do what she did, leave the things in the condition that she left them in and then fly right into an SES (senior executive service) position at the Labor Department," Sparks said.
"I mean, there's political favors there," he added. "It's writ large."
House Government Reform Committee investigators at the time said Labor knew Callahan got her degree from a diploma mill, yet still employed her. They found that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management tipped Labor off to her questionable credentials.
"We have requested the Homeland Security IG to look at why flags that had been raised about her educational qualifications in her personnel file at the Labor Department were not taken further," said House Government Reform Committee spokesman Dave Marin at the time.
He told WND that the government certainly cannot risk hiring someone with "fraudulent credentials" to head a senior position in an area as "sensitive as homeland security" computer operations and communications.
Calls to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management seeking comment about Callahan's latest hiring were not returned.