(WASHINGTON) — Two suspects have been charged with posing as Homeland Security Investigative (HSI) agents. Authorities say they were able to trick individuals, including members of the Secret Service and HSI who lived in the same building as them, into believing they were federal agents for reasons still unknown.
Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali were arrested on April 6 and charged with impersonating federal law enforcement. Neither man has yet pleaded guilty.
These shocking accusations and situation have raised questions about national security, counterintelligence, ethics and the wisdom of federal agents accepting gifts from any individual, regardless of position.
Gifts within the federal government, for all personnel, are regulated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The rules may vary from agency to agency, but generally the rules on gifts are in place to prevent a person or entity from exercising undue influence over a federal employee for some type of government benefit. , for official business, not staff.
But many have expressed particular concern about Secret Service personnel because of their closeness to the leaders of our government, including the President.
Generally, to work for the Secret Service in any position, a person must be a U.S. citizen, able to receive a security clearance, pass a background check, and meet other physical requirements. The hiring process is rigorous and can usually take over a year due to the depth of the background check.
During this process, in addition to the detailed background check, the Secret Service requires both physical screening and a polygraph test. The Secret Service is one of the only federal agencies that requires a polygraph test before hiring.
The background check requires a person to provide documents and answer questions related to all aspects of their life, from birth to education, relationships and finances. These facets of life are checked against computer databases to ensure that what the individual presents is factual and accurate.
At any point in this process, whether during background or polygraph, if unanswered questions arise, the individual may not be offered a position, which is why the Secret Service does not hire usually only a few hundred people each year against thousands of applicants.
Once hired, scouting does not stop. Due to their national security work, additional security checks are carried out to ensure that the individual deserves top secret clearance or better, including that they have no foreign influence. If a problem arises with the security clearance check, they may be denied a clearance and possibly terminated.
Secret Service personnel are also subject to random drug testing and require five-year background updates, which covers part of the original source documents as well as any changes or additions during the five-year period. previous years. Additionally, the Secret Service and other federal agencies are permitted to conduct random selection of personnel.
While it remains unclear what, if any, the nefarious goals of the alleged imposters were, the questions will remain. And while the FBI investigates the men who allegedly posed as federal agents, the Secret Service and the DHS Inspector General will conduct a thorough investigation that will identify and mitigate potential deficiencies or security issues resulting from this case. .
In 2019, the last non-pandemic year, the Secret Service conducted protection advances for more than 7,721 domestic trips and traveled overseas with their proteges during 372 overseas trips with few incidents.
Over the Secret Service’s history of success, if failure occurs, the agency has always tried to learn and adapt to become better, which is why in the expert panel report on the 2014 US Secret Service protection mission, when other agencies were asked about the secrecy. Service, the unanimously agreed that when it comes to protection, the Secret Service is “without equal”.
Donald J. Mihalek is an ABC News contributor, retired Senior Secret Service Agent and Regional Field Training Instructor who has served through two presidential transitions. He was also a police officer and in the US Coast Guard.
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