Johnson to DHS: Do Not Retaliate Against San Bernardino Whistleblowers

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is asking the Department of Homeland Security’s management to refrain from retaliating against whistleblowers who have contacted the committee. Johnson sent letters to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and DHS Inspector General John Roth on Wednesday after learning that DHS management is actively trying to identify which individuals furnished information to the committee used during Tuesday’s hearing on a breakdown in cooperation involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“I am concerned that ICE is attempting to identify and retaliate against whistleblowers who revealed a lack of cooperation between USCIS and ICE in the aftermath of the terror attacks in San Bernardino. ICE has a track record of retaliating against whistleblowers as in the case of [Homeland Security Investigations] Agent Taylor Johnson,” said Sen. Johnson. “Those who have the courage to come forward should not be retaliated against.”

Letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson can be found here.

Letter to DHS Inspector General John Roth can be found here.

Background

On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing at which Chairman Johnson revealed a lack of cooperation between USCIS and ICE in the aftermath of the terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif.  Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents were alerted by the FBI that Enrique Marquez, who supplied the weapons that Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik used to carry out the attacks in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, 2015, was scheduled for an immigration hearing at the USCIS office in San Bernardino on Dec. 3, 2015, together with his wife. According to an HSI memo from earlier this year, when HSI agents arrived at the USCIS office to detain Marquez, the USCIS denied the HSI agents entry into the building and later refused to provide relevant immigration documents to HSI.

Yesterday Chairman Johnson read from a memo provided by a whistleblower:

“At approximately 12 p.m. on Dec. 3, the FBI informed HSI and the [Joint Terrorism Task Force] that FBI field interview agents learned that Marquez and his wife, Mariya Chernykh, were scheduled for a meeting at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in San Bernardino for noon on Dec. 3.  HSI contacted the HSI special agent requesting a team of armed agents to respond to the San Bernardino USCIS office in order to detain Marquez until an FBI interview team could be dispatched.  The special agent informed the HSI team that the officer in charge of USCIS would not let HSI agents in the building.  . . . The special agent learned that Marquez and Chernykh did not show up for their meeting.  The special agent requested copies of the A-File in which USCIS refused.  The special agent was allowed to take a photo of Chernykh’s photo contained within the A-file.”

The committee has also been investigating DHS retaliation of HSI Agent Taylor Johnson.

  • Agent Johnson appeared before the committee on June 11, 2015 to testify on retaliation of whistleblowers.
  • Chairman Johnson sent a letter on March 4, 2016 to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting information about the retaliation against HSI agent Taylor Johnson.

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