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Homeland Security honcho comes under ethical cloud
Posted By Paul Sperry On 08/07/2003 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
WASHINGTON — “Please be advised I will not tolerate
any further derogatory comments from you about my
knowledge, qualifications and/or professional
That was former White House computer manager Laura
Crabtree Callahan blasting a colleague in an e-mail
for questioning her qualifications in 1997.
In hindsight, the computer-networking specialist criticizing Callahan might
not have been out of line.
Callahan, now a high-ranking Homeland Security
Department official, has been put on leave for
misrepresenting her academic qualifications. Turns out
the advanced computer degrees she listed on her resume
to land the No. 2 information-technology position in
the mammoth new department are from a diploma mill.
Her name may sound familiar, particularly to
WorldNetDaily readers. Callahan is the same Clinton
White House official who worked on a 1996 e-mail
server conversion project that resulted in a
mysterious server “glitch” that kept more than a
million e-mails covered by subpoena from being turned
over to investigators in the Lewinsky, Travelgate,
Filegate and Chinagate cases.
Laura Crabtree Callahan testifying before the House
Government Reform Committee in the Project X White House e-mail scandal
The Clinton loyalist allegedly threatened White House
computer contractors with jail if they talked about
the lost e-mail fiasco, which was known inside the
White House as “Project X.”
Several former co-workers questioned not only
Callahan’s technical qualifications, but also her
“Laura was such a difficult person to deal with that
no one would deal with her,” said former White House
computer manager Kathleen Gallant.
Many, including Gallant, say Callahan was not
Sheryl Hall, another former White House computer
manager, called her an “obsequious liar” who bypassed
the normal chain of command for career workers and
sidled up to political appointees to do their bidding.
A former Labor Department contractor who worked for
her says she was a “back-stabber,” who made life so
“miserable” for User Technology Associates contractors
working under her that they routinely left the job.
They say she often made threats against workers, and
that the jail threat over “Project X” was not the
In 1997, she had security escort a McLean, Va.-based
PRC contractor with whom she was at odds off White
House grounds after accusing him of sexually harassing
her. Gallant says White House Security Chief Chuck
Easley found “no proof” of any harassment by the
Laura Crabtree Callahan
“Laura was just a reign of terror,” said Howard “Chip”
Sparks, the White House computer operator who
questioned her technical competence.
During her tenure in the Clinton administration,
Callahan got a bachelor’s degree in computer science
(1993), a master’s in computer science (1995) and a
Ph.D in computer information systems (2000) from a
Wyoming diploma mill run out of a former motel. She
lists the degrees from non-accredited Hamilton
University on her resume.
According to a computer trade journal, the doctorate
diploma costs $3,600 and requires completing one
course at home. The course, which takes under eight
hours to complete, consists of a work book and an
open-book exam. The “dissertation” is a 2,000-word
Callahan, who is commonly referred to by the title of
“Dr.,” was placed on leave in June while officials
investigate her academic credentials.
Callahan’s office voice mail is still receiving
messages. A DHS co-worker says she is still out on
leave and has not been terminated.
Her attorney, Ralph L. Lotkin, did not return phone
If allowed to stay, Callahan will be senior director
of the office that will oversee disaster management
projects, such as Project SafeCom, a communications
network linking first responders. She’ll be one of the
highest-paid officials in the department.
It’s not immediately clear who hired her, but she
answers to DHS Chief Information Officer Steve Cooper,
who is spearheading an ambitious project to integrate
and secure the computer systems of all the agencies
moved into DHS last year.
The communications system will connect three major
operations within the new department: border and
transportation security, emergency preparedness and
response, and chemical, biological, radiological and
nuclear counter-measures. Callahan is said to be
involved in merging the networks, data centers and
telecommunications. She’s also involved in
electronic-records management, as she was in the White
Callahan had a secret clearance when she went to work
Either the FBI missed the bogus diplomas in scrubbing Callahan’s background for her secret clearance, or it
was caught but overlooked by political appointees who hired her, say congressional investigators who pressed
the Bush administration to look into Callahan’s sketchy academic background after the trade journal Washington Technology and Government Computer News broke the news. (It’s also possible the diplomas are back-dated. Callahan did not mention them in her March
2000 congressional testimony about the “Project X” scandal. She swore only to being a “graduate of Thomas
Edison State College,” a New Jersey school from which she received a two-year associate’s degree
in liberal arts.)
At the same time, however, Callahan has received
several awards, including the Federal 100 award in
both 2002 and 2003.
And just before her resume flap broke, she was named
president of the Association for Federal Information
Resources Management, a joint industry-government
organization. She’s since stepped down.
In addition, she serves as co-chairwoman of the CIO
Council’s Workforce and Human Capital for Information
Several Northrop Grumman contractors working on the
White House computer system testified in early 2000
that Callahan threatened to jail them if they talked
about the “Project X” e-mail scandal even to their
spouses. One technician, Robert Haas, said she warned
him “there will be a jail cell with your name on it.”
Even as the contractors testified in detail how she
threatened them, Callahan denied under oath making any
such threats. She suggested they “might have an
The contractors say she not only lied, but put on a
demure act during the hearings.
“She’s an obsequious liar,” said Hall, explaining that
Callahan protected White House political appointees
caught up in the Clinton scandals.
“She never talks like a chipmunk,” Hall said about her
Capitol Hill appearance. “Hollering and yelling was
her normal mode and here she comes across as Snow
White who wouldn’t intimidate anyone. That was not
Former White House computer contractor Betty Lambuth
“She was not Miss Snow White,” Lambuth said. “She can
really tear into you. We called her the Ice Queen.”
Added Gallant: “I didn’t trust her.”
Sparks recounted a run-in he had with her in 1997. He
says he questioned a technical decision she made, and
practically pulled back a bloody stump.
“Please be advised I will not tolerate any further
derogatory comments from you about my knowledge,
qualifications and/or professional competence,”
Callahan blasted Sparks in a March 3, 1997, e-mail,
a copy of which was obtained by
Callahan had to do some quick backpedaling after her
House testimony. The day after, she sent an affidavit
to the House Government Reform Committee, stating: “I
wish to clarify that I did discuss e-mail issues with
the Department of Justice attorneys in connection with
currently pending civil litigation,” referring to a
lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch Inc. She had denied
such contacts at the hearing.
Callahan left the White House under an ethical cloud,
only to land a top position elsewhere in the Clinton
administration. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman made her
deputy chief information officer at her agency, and
director of its information technology center.
While there, she oversaw the development of the
Privacy Assessment Model, which agencies will use to
better protect sensitive personal data managed by the
“It’s hard for me, having worked with this individual,
to believe that she was able to come in there, do what
she did, leave the things in the condition that she
left them in and then fly right into an SES (senior
executive service) position at the Labor Department,”
“I mean, there’s political favors there,” he added.
“It’s writ large.”
House Government Reform Committee investigators say
Labor knew Callahan got her degree from a diploma
mill, yet still employed her. They found that the U.S.
Office of Personnel Management tipped Labor off to her
questionable credentials. The panel has asked DHS
Inspector General Kent Ervin to investigate.
“We have requested the Homeland Security IG to look at
why flags that had been raised about her educational
qualifications in her personnel file at the Labor
Department were not taken further,” said House
Government Reform Committee spokesman Dave Marin.
He told WorldNetDaily that the government certainly
cannot risk hiring someone with “fraudulent
credentials” to head a senior position in an area as
“sensitive as homeland security” communications.
Phone calls to Labor were not returned.
But a former Labor contractor said turnover in
Callahan’s department was high during her management
“She made things quite miserable over there,” said the
computer contractor with Arlington, Va.-based User
Technology Associates. “People were bailing out. They
didn’t want to work for her anymore, because she’s such a
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