This month marks 10 years since John C. Beale, the highest-paid employee at the Environmental Protection Agency, was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison. Beale told his bosses he was a CIA spy working in London, India and Pakistan when he was actually kicking back at his vacation home. That fakery was hardly his only problem.
When he applied with the EPA in 1989, John Beale claimed he had worked for former senator John Tunney of California. He didn’t, and nobody bothered to check. Beale said he served in Vietnam, where he contracted malaria and therefore needed a handicapped parking spot. He didn’t serve in Vietnam, and didn’t contract malaria. Nobody checked those claims either and Beale got his handicapped parking spot.
In 1994, Beale told his bosses he was a secret agent for the CIA but nobody at the EPA picked up the phone to verify that whopper. That empowered Beale to take more than two years off, with full pay, claiming to be in London, India, and Pakistan when he was actually performing no work. Beale pulled off his CIA ruse for nearly 20 years, not exactly the model for a good employee.
With degrees in political science, administration, and law, Beale boasted little if any scientific expertise for his job as a “senior policy adviser” in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. October 2013 hearings in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found no evidence that Beale produced anything of value in that role. Even so, the EPA ponied up “retention bonuses,” authorized by deputy assistant administrator Robert Brenner.
As investigators discovered, Brenner co-owned a vacation home with Beale, and at the time Beale was staying at Brenner’s house. Brenner cooperated with the investigation of Beale but retired after the EPA’s inspector general investigated favors from a lobbyist who had previously worked on the EPA’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee.
Beale also retired, continued to draw a paycheck 19 months after his retirement dinner cruise on the Potomac. Beale also got retention bonuses even after he retired. As one representative asked in hearings shown on C-SPAN, “was that so he wouldn’t retire again?”
All told, the EPA’s agent 007 bilked taxpayers of nearly $1 million. Judge Ellen Huvelle found Beale’s crimes “inexplicable” and “unbelievably egregious.” Beale served time at the Federal Correctional Institute in Cumberland, the favored soft landing spot for the government’s white-collar criminals. The fraudster gained release after 18 months, but there’s more to the story.
Beale reported to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. In the wake of the spy scandal, she was promoted to head the agency. In 2015, EPA contractors released three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into the Animas River, unleashing a veritable tsunami of lead, arsenic, and other toxic materials through southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. Despite the disaster, McCarthy kept her job as EPA boss.
In the wake of the Beale scandal, no reports emerged about CIA officers claiming to work for the EPA. On the other hand, the spy agency also has special personnel issues.
As Ron Radosh (The Rosenberg File) noted, Clinton national security advisor Anthony Lake failed to become CIA director partly because he believed Alger Hiss might be innocent. (He wasn’t. See Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, by Allen Weinstein.)
In the 1976 presidential election, college student John Brennan voted for the Stalinist Gus Hall of the Communist Party USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Soviet Union. That should have barred Brennan from any job with the CIA, but the agency hired Brennan in 1980 and in 2013 the Gus Hall voter came to run the place.
With all its money and resources, the CIA failed to prevent the events of September 11, 2001, the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor in 1941. Despite the death and destruction, CIA director George Tenet kept his job and the money kept coming. By now it should be clear that, as a prosecutor said of John Beale, the CIA and EPA are also “the poster child for what’s wrong with government.”
This article was also published in The American Spectator