WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, last evening Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, took to the Senate floor to highlight the work of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee, Special Agent Matthew O’Neill, as part of his ongoing efforts to highlight the exemplary work of a Department employee each month.
His speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
“Mr. President, over the past several weeks we’ve been talking a lot about the Department of Homeland Security. As you know, the Department was recently at the center of another budget battle here on Capitol Hill. For weeks, it was unclear if the Department was going to face a shutdown, another short-term continuing resolution, or receive the full fiscal year funding it needed. Fortunately, Congress did its job and sent a clean funding bill for the rest of the fiscal year to the President’s desk.
“While the Department’s employees and leadership can now return their focus to keeping Americans safe from the threats our country faces, we shouldn’t ignore the harm that this latest debate inflicted on the already low employee morale at the Department.
“More than 200,000 men and women work at the Department to fulfill one mission: to create a safe, secure and resilient place where the American way of life can thrive. Many of these employees put their lives on the line every day.
“Whether these employees are securing our borders and skies, responding to natural disasters or bolstering our defenses in cyber space, few other federal agencies and employees touch the lives of Americans on a daily basis more than the Department of Homeland Security. There’s no question that they deserve to be treated better than the way Congress has been treating them lately.
“That’s one of the reasons why, over the past few months, I’ve been coming to the floor to recognize the work of a few of the many exemplary Department of Homeland Security employees.
“In February, I spoke about Mr. Ramiro Garza Jr., a Border Patrol Agent at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Garza in early February in McAllen, Texas, while on a visit to the Mexican border in South Texas with Senators Ron Johnson and Ben Sasse. This past summer, Mr. Garza played an instrumental role in quickly setting up an Emergency Operations Center and processing facility, which he now runs, to help Customs and Border Protection better manage unaccompanied minors and families apprehended along the southern border.
“Today I rise to speak about another dedicated and outstanding employee at the Department of Homeland Security – U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Matthew O’Neill.
“Over the past several months, there have been incidents, including some as recently as this month, that have again raised serious questions about the agency and its ability to fulfill its responsibilities. The agency’s leadership is still addressing those troubling incidents and taking steps to implement reforms and improve the agency from the inside out.
“So while it’s important for us to usher in a new chapter for the U.S. Secret Service, it’s important that we also shine some light on the brave men and women at the agency who continue to serve our country and carry out their missions with distinction. Special Agent Matthew O’Neill is one of many hardworking public servants, whose day-to-day work deserves special recognition.
“We live in a world that is becoming increasingly digitized. Nearly all Americans – including members of this Chamber and me – are spending more and more time online whether it’s to do their banking, their shopping, communicating with loved ones, or simply getting their day-to-day work accomplished.
“Americans’ ability to go online in a safe and secure environment is at the core of Special Agent O’Neill’s work. You see, agents in the U.S. Secret Service are not only responsible for protecting the President, the First Family, and other dignitaries. Some agents – like Special Agent O’Neill – do their work in cyber space, where criminals are elusive and the threats are sophisticated. Put simply, his job is to target the cyber criminals taking aim at American consumers and businesses – and our national security – online.
“Financial crime has evolved dramatically in the nearly 20 years since Special Agent O’Neill began his career with the Secret Service. Not that long ago, criminals would go to bank or perhaps to a jewelry store to steal money or valuables. Today, they don’t even need to go outside to steal items of great value from businesses, the federal government or consumers. They just need access to the Internet. These data breaches are disruptive to our economy and cause worry and confusion for millions of American consumers and businesses. But thanks to his dedication and expertise, Special Agent O’Neill has helped the federal government try and stay ahead of the curve and keep our most sensitive information and property secure.
“Special Agent O’Neill is originally from Dumfries, Virginia. He graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia before beginning his career with the Secret Service in 1998 in its New Haven, Connecticut office. From 2003 until 2007, he served in the Vice Presidential and Special Services Division in Washington, D.C.
“However, it is while serving in his current role – one primarily performed in cyber space – that Special Agent O’Neill has become one of the top cyber warriors defending our security online.
“In this position, he has helped lead a number of complex transnational cybercrime investigations. These investigations have focused on crimes ranging from hacks into check-out lanes at brick-and-mortar stores to the online sale of stolen personally identifiable information, like Social Security numbers.
“In one investigation, Special Agent O’Neill identified website portals that sold the personal information of approximately 30 million Americans to other cyber criminals, potentially putting victims at risk for identity theft or credit card fraud.
“To uncover the criminals running and participating in this scheme, Special Agent O’Neill sought and executed over a dozen federal search warrants, made numerous undercover purchases, and painstakingly examined nearly 40,000 emails.
“As a result of his extensive investigation, Special Agent O’Neill was able to trace the source of the stolen data – to an individual in South Vietnam. In 2013, the culprit was arrested for his crimes. Since the investigation, Special Agent O’Neill has been able to identify and arrest over 20 other criminals who worked in conjunction with the culprit by illicitly purchasing the stolen data.
“In addition to breaking up that complex network, Special Agent O’Neill’s work has also thwarted attacks involving everyday transactions, saving businesses and consumers from financial harm. For example, he played a critical role in identifying, tracking, and indicting three Romanian nationals who were planning to hack into the computer system of a major fast food franchise with more than 25,000 restaurants here in the United States.
“Time and time again, Special Agent O’Neill’s supervisors and colleagues have noted and commended his dedication to duty, including his willingness to work at all hours of the day and night to track criminals who use the internet with malicious intent.
“In 2012, he was recognized as the “Investigator of the Year” by the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. In 2013, he was honored by the Secret Service as its “Special Agent of the Year” for his efforts, and in 2014, he received the DHS Secretary’s Meritorious Service Award.
“But Special Agent O’Neill’s service doesn’t end with his work at the Department of Homeland Security. When he’s not combating cyber crime, he is serving his neighbors and community by volunteering for a local charity that provides financial assistance to families dealing with cancer. The charity also provides scholarship money for the continuing education of oncology nurses. I’d like to thank Agent O’Neil’s family for sharing him with his community and nation. We are a safer country because of it.
“The actions taken by Special Agent Matthew O’Neill attest to the critically important work being done by thousands of individuals across the Department of Homeland Security every day. These men and women are courageous, dedicated, and exemplary federal employees who selflessly serve our country year in and year out. Like Special Agent Matthew O’Neill, these unsung heroes walk among us every day, protecting us from the unknown or unexpected. And more often than not, their good work goes unnoticed. But not today.
“Special Agent O’Neill, thank you for your dedication to this country and thank you for your tireless service.”