Davis: Labor knew about Callahan's degrees

The Labor Department knew Laura Callahan, its former deputy chief information officer, had suspect credentials, but took no action, according to letter from a congressman pushing an investigation of Callahan and the use of diploma mills by government officials.

The Office of Personnel Management told the Labor Department that Callahan, who later left the agency to join the Homeland Security Department, had received academic degrees from an alleged diploma mill, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said in a letter sent Thursday to Homeland Security Department Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin.

Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, also formally requested yesterday that the General Accounting Office begin an investigation of the credential inflation issue.

Callahan has been on administrative leave from Homeland Security since June 5, following reports, first published by Post Newsweek Tech Media, that her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees had been obtained from Hamilton University, an unaccredited school in Evanston, Wyo., that requires scant academic work.

'I am very concerned that, despite the transmittal [of] this information to the Department of Labor, no action was taken and, moreover, Ms. Callahan was subsequently named to a senior position at DHS,' Davis wrote to Ervin. Callahan was senior director in the office of Homeland Security CIO Steve Cooper.

Davis added in his letter to the inspector general that an earlier investigation of the issue by the General Accounting Office's Office of Special Investigations 'demonstrated how easily individuals could obtain fraudulent degrees. The easy availability of these fake credentials and the depth of the deceit involved ' even to the point of manufacturing counterfeit transcripts ' is very troubling.'

Davis asked for a new GAO investigation of credential inflation in a letter yesterday to Comptroller General David Walker. Davis referred to reports that Callahan 'may have advanced her career using credentials obtained from a so-called diploma mill that awards advanced degrees for little or no work.'

Davis referred to his earlier correspondence with the Office of Personnel Management on the inflated-credentials issue. A Davis spokesman said Wednesday that OPM's guidance on the process of detecting bogus credentials may not be sufficient, and that federal employees may be using degrees from diploma mills to get promotions and raises.

In Thursday's letter to the GAO, Davis asked the agency 'to investigate how departments and agencies ensure that employees who have been promoted on the strength of enhanced educational achievement have actually earned the degrees they claim, and that the degrees they claim represent legitimate educational achievements that justify promotion.'

Labor Department officials were not immediately available to comment on Davis' statements that their department had known about Callahan's suspect credentials.

In an earlier response to Post Newsweek Tech Media inquiries about Callahan's credentials, Labor spokesman Bob Zachariasiewicz said: 'She was not hired because of her Ph.D., and she was not promoted because of her Ph.D. It had no bearing. Her Ph.D. was irrelevant to her employment situation here.'

Zachariasiewicz added that the agency 'was not the original hiring agency. We would not have ordered a security clearance investigation,' he said. 'Her doctorate did not affect her original employment and was irrelevant to her employment situation.'

Callahan obtained her suspect doctorate in 2000 while working at the Labor Department. By then, she already had bachelor's and master's degrees from Hamilton University.

The inspector general's office likely will respond to Davis' letter today, sources said.

Asked about Davis' statement that Labor knew of Callahan's suspect credentials, a DHS spokeswoman said, 'I am going to check in on it.'

Callahan is on paid administrative leave while the department conducts its investigation.

(Updated 1:15 p.m. June 27, 2003)

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