Blogger and pundit Annie Jacobsen published a piece titled, "Top TSA Officials in Cheating Scandal Also Ran Private Consulting Firm " on Saturday, March 15. This piece has been linked to from several blogs and other sites in the past day.
Below is a topic by topic comparison of suppositions and the truth. At the end of this post is an e-mail I personally sent to Jacobsen on Thursday, March 13th, three full days before the piece appeared, clearly answering her questions and explaining the rules concerning outside employment. Full e-mail addresses have been omitted.
"...the TSA was caught encouraging colleagues to cheat on covert bomb detection tests being performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)."
Anyone remotely familiar with post 9/11 security knows that the FAA does not conduct covert security tests anymore and hasn't for several years. The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, Government Accountability Office and TSA Office of Inspection do. The message in question was an attempt to notify federal security directors of the possibility of someone masquerading as a Department of Transportation official and was recalled 13 minutes after being sent. The individual that sent the e-mail was not familiar with covert testing at all.
"Consulting in the private sector simultaneously is in direct conflict with federal policy and specifically prohibited by two statutes of Department of Homeland Security employment contracts..."
As was written (see e-mail below) to Jacobsen three days before the article appeared, government ethics rules do not prohibit Federal employees from owning or operating a private business as long as it does not create any conflicts of interest for them. In other words, employees cannot participate in any government matter that could affect the financial interests of their own business. The law that restricts this type of conflict of interest is 18 USC § 208 . TSA is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of the consulting company McGowan and Restovich operated.
Jacobsen also referenced a regulation titled, ADM 3700. After checking with our attorneys, that regulation pertains only to federal air marshal personnel, not regular TSA employees. This was also clearly communicated to Jacobsen in the e-mail below.
Additionally, looking at the very document she references in the piece, it clearly states, "TSA employees may not engage in outside employment or an outside activity that conflicts with their official duties..." TSA has looked into this activity and is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of Group 2M. (as is written in the e-mail below).
"Morris "Mo" McGowan took Restovich's place as security operations chief after the cheating scandal broke."
While chronologically correct, these events are completely unrelated. Mr. Restovich left the top post in security operations to become a senior field executive.
"Restovich did not show up and was instead dispatched overseas. TSA would neither confirm nor deny if in his new role as DHS attaché, Mike Restovich is a government employee receiving a salary and benefits, or if he is a paid consultant."
Mr. Restovich was never "dispatched" overseas. He was selected to fill the position of DHS attaché to the United Kingdom. This was in no way related to any scheduled hearing.
During conversations and e-mail correspondences with the reporter, the question, "is Mr. Restovich a government employee receiving salary and benefits?" was never asked. If it had been asked, we certainly would have provided this information. As the e-mail below shows, we did answer all questions pertaining to Mr. Restovich's assignment in England and his predecessor in the position.
"TSA's Office of Public Affairs declined to provide further information on Mike Restovich, Morris "Mo" McGowan, or the security consulting company the two men formed while working as TSA officials."
As the e-mail below clearly shows, all the questions asked were answered in a very clear, straight-forward manner.
----- Original Message -----
From: White, Christopher
To: 'annie jacobsen' anniejacobsen@.com
Sent: Thu Mar 13 17:39:56 2008Subject:
RE: Two Questions
Annie, Below are answers to your questions. Also, going forward, you will be given the same access to information as other private citizens via our Freedom of Information Act office. They may be contacted at: email@example.com .
1) Did anyone hold the position, "DHS Attaché to the United Kingdom" before Mike Restovich? And if so, who.
Yes, David Tiedge
2) Do you have any updates you would like to share with the public regarding the Congressional investigation into the matter involving Mike Restovich last fall?
Congress would be a more appropriate source for updates on a congressional investigation. Suggest you contact the relevant committee.
Government ethics rules do not prohibit Federal employees from owning or operating a private business as long as it does not create any conflicts of interest for them. In other words, employees at the Transportation Senior Executive Service (TSES) level and below cannot participate in any government matter that could affect the financial interests of their own business. The law that restricts this type of conflict of interest is 18 USC § 208. TSA is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of Group 2M. In response to your question regarding ADM 3700, that policy refers to Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) personnel only and neither Mr. McGowan nor Mr. Restovich are FAMS personnel.