By Paolo von Schirach
October 1, 2013
WASHINGTON – A United States government worker employed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, one day tells his superiors that in fact he is also an under cover agent working for the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. In his capacity as a secret agent he has to work at the CIA for one day a week and then on occasions he has go away, destination of course undisclosed, for extended periods of time. He explains that he has to keep his EPA job as a convenient front. This goes on for 13 years. In the end this civil servant has to retire from the EPA. But, no, he really does not. He convinces the EPA that, since he still active with the CIA, he needs his job at the EPA as cover. And so, after retirement he continues to work and collects more pay checks. Finally retired, of course he gets his full pension.
A Hollywood plot?
So far this looks like a so-so plot for a Hollywood farce. The story is entirely preposterous. Even more preposterous is that, after Mr. X declares to his EPA superiors that he is in fact an under cover CIA agent, no one at the EPA bothered to check his story. Nobody made even the slightest attempt to verify what seemed to be a very unlikely tall tale.
And so, Mr. X kept on working a four day week and taking trips, meanwhile getting paid by the EPA. In fact, he sometimes traveled first class and he did this and that. It is estimated that, in the course of 13 years, he cost taxpayers $ 900,000. And it is not at all clear whether he actually did any real work when he actually reported for his day job at the EPA. .
Well, believe it or not, this is not a Hollywood farce.
Meet Mr. John Beale
The rogue Environmental Protection Agency functionary is in fact a real person. His name is John Beale. If you think this is impossible, check this story. The whole thing is true. Amazing; but true. It was only because of the efforts of the EPA’s Inspector General that in the end the truth was uncovered. The matter has been the focus of a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by California Congressman Darrell Issa. True to form, Mr. John Beale appeared in front of the Committee; but he “took the fifth” and did not say a word. However, his remarkable multi-year hoax was described in detail.
What is most remarkable here is not that a brilliant fraudster tried to pull this off. What is truly shocking is that he succeeded, for years and years, without anybody even trying to verify his story about his double duty as a CIA agent.
This is truly worrisome as it provides an indication of a most relaxed atmosphere in which accountability does not even appear. Of course, Mr. Beale’s feat is truly unique. But if he could fake something so gigantic, for years and years, how about smaller lies, and minor fraud most likely perpetrated by many of his colleagues? How about invented diseases as an excuse to take time off? And, worst of all, how about doing a poor job and still getting promoted and then getting a probably unearned pension?
Major Nidal Hasan was a bad doctor
Another example illustrates this point. We all know about Major Nidal Hasan, the insane Army doctor who went on his Fort Hood shooting rampage acting on his duty, as a pious Muslim, to kill bad Americans. What is less known, however, is that Dr. Hasan was kept on active duty despite bad reports regarding his professional competence. In other words, his superiors, (even if completely unaware of his Islamic “radicalization”), knew very well that he was a bad doctor. But they would not act on this. Who knows, may be they thought that because he was an Arab American he deserved special consideration. Anyway, he was not kicked out of the service. In fact, he got promoted.
And so, by virtue of being still on active duty when he completely lost his mind, he had the opportunity to go on his shooting rampage on an Army base. Again, Dr. Hasan is an extreme case. But what is not extreme is that he was an incompetent professional who managed to stay on pay roll because his superiors would not act on their knowledge of his poor record as an Army doctor.
Multiply this relaxed attitude about poor performance by thousands and thousands of cases and you begin to understand why government is so inefficient and inattentive. Indeed, when mediocrity is tolerated, when ethical standard are not upheld, when poor performance becomes the accepted norm, then even extreme cases like Mr. Beale’s 13 years CIA hoax become possible.