The INS bureaucracy is a cesspool of elbow-rubbers, string-pullers, chest-puffers and cover-uppers who care more about protecting their backsides than upholding the law.
Look no further than the man who currently heads the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's counterterrorism unit. His name is Walter D. Cadman. As you read his stomach-churning story, remember what internal whistle-blowers at INS have been warning for years: Cadman is not an aberrant exception among the agency's top management. He is the rule.
Cadman joined INS in 1976, worked his way up the ranks, and then scored the plum job of Miami district director in 1992. Miami, of course, is one of the busiest hubs for immigration officials. Cadman did his best to impress the higher-ups from Washington, D.C.
But Cadman did more than just straighten the furniture when VIPs came calling. He helped create an entire false front. In June 1995, when an important congressional fact-finding delegation flew down to visit the Miami airport and the Krome detention center, Cadman participated in an elaborate scheme to deceive the politicians about how well these overcrowded facilities operated.
Nearly 50 INS employees wrote a joint letter to House immigration task force chairman Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., alleging that Cadman and others had intentionally duped their Beltway guests during the visit. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) confirmed the Potemkin ruse. Among the OIG's findings: Cadman and 13 other senior staffers had released or transferred 101 of the 407 illegal aliens detained at Krome to make it look better. Of 58 aliens who were unleashed on the American public, at least nine were criminals and 35 had not been medically cleared for discharge.
The INS managers also ordered the temporary transfer of 45 detainees to other jails. They were bused to north Florida and New Orleans several hours before the congressional delegation arrived. The taxpayers' bill for travel: more than $10,000. At the Miami airport, Cadman and his colleagues created the illusion of efficiency by evacuating detention cells, moving jailed detainees to unsecured areas, and hiring extra customs inspectors -- who were paid overtime -- to eliminate long lines. They also instructed underlings to lie to the congressional representatives about detention area procedures.
It took a year for Inspector General Michael Bromwich to fully uncover this nefarious plot. Why? Because Cadman and his cronies tried to cover up their tracks. While Cadman did not lead the conspiracy, Bromwich noted: "Mr. Cadman was a willing participant in efforts to mislead INS headquarters and then to mislead and delay the investigation of this matter.'' According to Bromwich, Cadman "refused to allow the OIG access to the computer servers that backed up the Miami District's electronic mail." Even after INS Headquarters directed Cadman's office to release the messages, "Cadman refused to provide access to his or his managers' computers or the servers."
The OIG was forced to hire computer specialists to reconstruct over 4,000 e-mail messages and retrieve incriminating evidence. "Despite the OIG's efforts to get INS to preserve its records," Bromwich noted, "some e-mail was deleted before the investigators could review it."
Bromwich recommended that if INS couldn't fire Cadman, the agency should move him "where he would not have significant managerial responsibilities." Cadman headed to Washington and took a voluntary "demotion" as a criminal investigator -- I kid you not -- at a level which pays "at least $100,000 a year," according to INS watchdog Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.
In 1998, Cadman was quietly named head of the INS' National Security Unit, where he coordinates counterterrorism efforts. That's right. This deceptive bureaucrat who condoned the reckless release of alien criminals, endangered the public and misled Congress is now in charge of helping law enforcement agents round up alien criminals.
Besides Reps. Gallegly and Tancredo, there has been no other uproar in Washington over Cadman's continued employment in one of the most important post-Sept. 11 roles at INS. Only one other journalist, dogged investigator Bob Norman of the Miami New Times, has exposed Cadman's outrageous position. Meanwhile, INS spokeswoman Nancy Cohen told me the agency is "very supportive" of Cadman -- who will not answer press inquiries directly about his Miami past.
It's "not an issue," Cohen told me. Doesn't anyone else -- in the White House, in the media, anywhere -- disagree?