Watchdog to depart DHS after tensions
over U.S. travel ban report
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[November 29, 2017]
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department
of Homeland Security's top internal watchdog told Reuters on Tuesday he
will retire, after he complained about a delay in the release of a
report critical of the department's handling of President Donald Trump's
Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth, nominated by former
Democratic President Barack Obama in late 2013, said in an interview on
Tuesday that his last day will be Thursday. He announced his plans to
his staff early last week.
Roth said his decision to step down was unrelated to concerns he raised
in a seven-page, Nov. 20 letter to members of Congress that revealed for
the first time the findings from his office's inquiry into how U.S.
Customs and Border Protection implemented Trump's initial travel ban in
In the letter, Roth said he was "troubled" that senior Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) leaders had taken more than six weeks to decide
which parts of the report should be made public, and had given it to the
Justice Department to decide whether to redact some sections on internal
The 87-page report has yet to be released.
In a statement, a DHS spokesman said its employees "conducted themselves
professionally, and in a legal manner" in implementing the travel ban.
Roth said that after he leaves, the inspector general office's deputy,
John V. Kelly, will take over temporarily until the president nominates
a permanent replacement.
"It was a good run," Roth said, noting that he has worked in the
government since the Reagan era. "It is now time to do other things.
This has been coming for awhile."
Trump's travel ban of January 2017, restricting U.S. entry by people
from certain Muslim majority countries, has been the target of multiple
legal challenges. Its initial implementation led to chaos at airports
across the United States.
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Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth testifies before a
House Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration on
Capitol Hill in Washington June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
The January ban was blocked by federal courts. Trump later issued
two revised versions in March and September. The U.S. Supreme Court
is now weighing whether to let the latest version go into full
effect after it was partially blocked by lower courts.
In his letter to Congress, Roth said his office did not substantiate
any claims of misconduct by customs agents, but that there was
little warning before the ban took effect and the department
violated court orders in two different instances.
Roth told Reuters he had not heard any updates since he wrote to
Congress. "I still remain very concerned," he said, adding other
inspectors general have told him they too were "surprised" by DHS'
handling of the matter.
Presidentially appointed inspectors general serve at the pleasure of
the president, although they typically do not step down with a
change in administration.
Roth has worked in government since 1987, including as a prosecutor
in the Justice Department and more recently as head of the Food and
Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tom
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