How Many More Mike Browns Are Out There?

A TIME inquiry finds that at top positions in some vital government agencies, the Bush Administration is putting connections before experience

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement is one of 22 agencies operating under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, but its function goes to the heart of why the department was created: to prevent terrorists from slipping into the U.S. If that weren't enough, the head of ICE must also contend with money launderers, drug smugglers, illegal-arms merchants and the vast responsibility that comes with managing 20,000 government employees and a $4 billion budget. Expectations were high that whoever was appointed to fill the job would be, in the words of Michael Greenberger, head of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security, "a very high-powered, well-recognized intelligence manager."

Instead the Administration nominated Myers, 36, currently a special assistant handling personnel issues for Bush. She has experience in law-enforcement management, including jobs in the White House and the Commerce, Justice and Treasury departments, but she barely meets the five-year minimum required by law. Her most significant responsibility has been as Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Commerce Department, where, she told Senators, she supervised 170 employees and a $25 million budget.

Myers may appear short on qualifications, but she has plenty of connections. She worked briefly for Chertoff as his chief of staff at the Justice Department's criminal division, and two days after her hearing, she married Chertoff's current chief of staff, John Wood. Her uncle is Air Force General Richard Myers, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Julie Myers was on her honeymoon last week and was unavailable to comment on the questions about her qualifications raised by the Senate. A representative referred TIME to people who had worked with her, one of whom was Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crime. "She was great, and she impressed everyone around her in all these jobs," he said. "She's very efficient, and she's assertive and strong and smart, and I think she's wonderful."

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