June 8, 2003


Laura Callahan, the deputy CIO of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was placed on paid administrative leave last week after questions surfaced about her academic qualifications, a DHS spokeswoman confirmed.

The move came after members of Congress contacted department officials demanding answers to questions about her academic background, as well as about the department’s policy on background checks.

On her resume, Callahan, who was appointed to the position on April 1, said she received her academic degrees, including a doctorate in computer information systems, from Hamilton University in Evanston, Wyo.

However, the congressmen, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), contend that according to published reports, Hamilton isn’t licensed by that state, nor is the school accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. The congressmen said Hamilton is a “diploma mill.”

Of course, the real question is why she got the job in the first place. Don’t they do background checks? And besides, there’s this:

In March 2000, she was one of two White House officials accused of threatening Northrop Grumman Corp. workers with jail unless they kept quiet about the disappearance of thousands of White House e-mails, according to press reports at the time. Callahan was the White House webmaster under the Clinton administration, and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman ran the White House computer system at the time.

Maybe they figured that was proof she could keep a secret. . . .

(Via Robi Sen).

UPDATE: Background checks? Hah! Lawrence Haws says that he only needed three minutes with google to discover this “explosive” secret. He’s even got photographic evidence!

Perhaps someone should introduce the Homeland Security folks to Google.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Haws has noticed changes to one of the profiles he found. He suspects Callahan, but a reader emailed me to note that anyone can edit that profile rather easily.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, this joke’s on us. Not the phony degree part, but the site that Haws found. Reader elaborates:

Microsoft SQL ships with a demo data base called northwind traders. By default it is installed. It gives a basic idea of table relationships and the data that might be in a live DB. It’s pretty lame actually. It just so happens that there is a Laura Callahan listed as an employee. . . .

Basically, someone wrote a quick table editor for a test and left it visible to the web. I’m a long term DBA who’s been worked with just about every DB platform that’s shipped since 1995. Easy to get fooled by if you’re not familiar with the software. The first clue should have been that the data was editable by anyone on the web. The second clue was the simple (ugly) interface. The third clue should have been the products on the site had nothing to do with parent site.

I won’t box you around much because you were just passing along someone else’s error, but I read your site. And after all, according to some you’re one the 4 most powerful bloggers! ;)

Hmm. Well, if an “ugly” interface is a clue that something’s wrong then there’s a lot of funny business going on. It’s odd that the pictures match, though. But there you are — I don’t promise no mistakes here, just swift corrections.

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