Admitting Terror, Part 3

Florida INS director Dan Cadman fooled Congress; then his bosses promoted him

Five years ago Walter "Dan" Cadman left South Florida in disgrace. The former director of Florida operations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service had been caught deceiving a Congressional task force and then trying to cover up his actions. The Justice Department, after an investigation into what became known as Kromegate, recommended that Cadman be fired or, at the very least, receive a 30-day suspension and be permanently relieved of management duties.

In 1996 the INS transferred Cadman from his position in Florida to the service's Washington, D.C., headquarters, where he was temporarily demoted to an investigator's position. But two years later, after the public outrage over Kromegate had died down and Cadman's name was all but forgotten, Immigration's top brass quietly handed him a new job, a position that was more important than anyone could have known: The INS made Cadman its counterterrorism chief.

Cadman, as director of the INS National Security Unit, continues to oversee a staff and direct criminal investigations across the country. He is also responsible for working with other federal agencies, including the FBI and CIA, to help catch terrorists. The man who had been caught deceiving Congress was soon testifying before House and Senate subcommittees about the nation's effort to combat terrorism.

"If a person can't be trusted, how can he be given a job dealing with terrorism with the INS?" wonders U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, a California Republican and chairman of the task force that was lied to at Krome (the western Miami-Dade County facility where hundreds of immigrants are detained). "He should have been fired after Kromegate."

Gallegly, a longtime critic of the INS, says he learned only after the September 11 disasters that Cadman held the important post. And he says Cadman's promotion following the scandal illustrates the chronic mismanagement of the immigration service.

Cadman refused to comment for this article. But INS spokeswoman Nancy Cohen spoke for him. "INS has every confidence that Dan Cadman has the ability to run the national security unit," she said. "We're definitely supportive of Dan and his efforts."

The September 11 attacks, however, have shone a spotlight on the failures of the INS. Immigration inspectors, for instance, admitted terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta into the country on January 10 when he should have been deported. This past Monday, President Bush announced that the Justice Department is forming a task force to reform the entire immigration system. Also on Monday, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House subcommittee on immigration, visited INS centers in Miami and met with top officials including district director John Bulger and union leaders William King and Jose Touron, who detailed chronic problems at the service in a recent New Times article ("Admitting Terror," October 18).

Cadman himself illuminated some of the National Security Unit's shortcomings when he testified before a Senate subcommittee in 1998. He conceded that the INS was failing to update computer databases used to track and identify terrorists. He also said that the INS and other federal agencies weren't communicating enough with one another, making it possible for terrorists to slip through the cracks.

Yet it seems little has been done to improve the situation since then. "INS's failure has played a key role in the threat to American security," Gallegly says. "There is no question about that. I'm not going to point fingers, but there is simply no enforcement happening at INS."

Cadman's climb through the bureaucracy began when he joined the INS in 1976. After working as an investigator and regional director, he took over Florida operations in 1992.

Three years later, when the seven-member Congressional fact-finding team visited Krome and Miami International Airport, Cadman was among several high-ranking INS officials who attempted to deceive the Washington politicians into believing that Miami immigration operations were managed well. Cadman and others abruptly released 58 inmates from the critically overcrowded Krome Detention Center two days before the task force's visit, according to an exhaustive federal investigation. More than 80 other aliens were transferred to other federal facilities to dupe the House delegation. To give the illusion that the inspection process at the Miami airport was well-managed, staffing was bulked up and noncriminal detainees were allowed to wait in an unsecured lobby rather than in a less hospitable holding cell. Inspectors were also ordered to remove their gun holsters and handcuffs to portray a kinder, gentler INS that focused on customer service.

After more than 45 employees, many of them union members, blew the whistle on their bosses, Kromegate broke. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Justice Department investigated the matter and, in June 1996, released its findings in a 197-page report. In it, Inspector General Michael Bromwich not only detailed the conspiracy behind the INS sham but also explained how Cadman and other officials tried to cover up their wrongdoing.

While Cadman didn't personally direct the conspiracy to deceive the task force (that job was left to his deputy, Valerie Blake), he did "sit by and allow the deception to occur," Bromwich wrote. "Moreover, and perhaps most troubling, Cadman was a willing participant in efforts to mislead INS headquarters and then to mislead and delay the investigation into this matter."

Justice officials found that Cadman had presided over meetings in which the conspiracy was planned. On the day of the visit, Cadman, reportedly red-faced with anger, threatened to arrest two INS inspectors who tried to alert the representatives about the whitewash. Cadman even called airport police.

Cadman's cover-up efforts began after the OIG started its investigation. "Cadman did not deny that large numbers of aliens had been transferred and released from Krome," Bromwich wrote in his report. "However, Cadman essentially represented that all alien movements were normal in light of Krome's overcrowded condition." That explanation, investigators determined, wasn't true.

Rather than cooperate with investigators, Cadman forced the Justice Department to obtain subpoenas to access his computer files. When the OIG finally gained access to Cadman's computer, all his e-mails relating to the delegation's visit had been deleted. According to the OIG report, "In his interview, Cadman stated that as a matter of consistent practice he contemporaneously deleted his electronic mail messages shortly after responding to them. In searching his e-mail, however, we did find some of Cadman's messages from June 1995 -- which was inconsistent with Cadman's representation to us."

In an expensive and time-consuming process, investigators were eventually able to locate 61 messages that had been sent or received by Cadman regarding the congressional visit, many of which helped the OIG prove that the officials had purposefully deceived Congress.

"On the basis of evidence gathered in this investigation, we believe the appropriate punishment for Miami District Director Walter Cadman falls within a range from a 30-day suspension to termination of employment," the OIG concluded. "Should he not be terminated, we urge his reassignment... to a position where he would not have significant managerial responsibilities."

After Cadman's removal from Miami, he virtually disappeared into the INS bureaucracy. Then on March 4, 1997, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Kentucky) held hearings on Kromegate, trying to find out how Cadman and his cohorts were punished. Rogers grilled then-Attorney General Janet Reno: Rogers: I need to know what happened to the people. Let's get to the bottom line here. What happened to the people that misled the Congress? Name the names, and where are they now?

Reno: Dan Cadman elected a voluntary demotion to GS-15, criminal investigator in headquarters ops.

Rogers: Where is he now?

Reno: I cannot tell you precisely.

Rogers: Is he still working?

Reno: He accepted a voluntary demotion, sir, so I would assume he is still working.

Rogers: He's a Justice Department official, correct?

Reno: So far as I know, sir.

Rogers: He misled the Congress, still works for the Justice Department. Who else?

When Reno told Rogers that Cadman and other Kromegate officials went through a legal process to maintain their jobs, Rogers shot back, "We want to protect their rights. I'm also protective of the people's right to have truthful federal employees reporting truthfully to their people's representatives. And when they lie to the Congress... and they maintain their employment with the Justice Department, people have a right to be suspect.... How can we make policy when our own officials are misleading the people like that?"

Roughly a year later, in 1998, INS promoted Cadman to head the newly formed National Security Unit. "This is a case where truth is stranger than fiction," says Rep. Gallegly. "And I think this explains in some way what is wrong with INS."

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