Laura Callahan was the former senior director at the United States Department of Homeland Security who resigned after an investigation revealed that she had obtained academic degrees from a diploma mill. Callahan had also served as Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the US Department of Labor and was previously a senior information technology (IT) manager at the White House. Through her work in the latter position, Callahan had been involved but not responsible for computer problems that caused thousands of email messages to escape the reach of a congressional subpoena.
During an examination of campaign finance irregularities of the 1996 presidential campaign, investigators discovered that thousands of subpoenaed federal email messages were missing due to an unspecified computer error. In March 2000, Callahan was called to testify before Congress regarding her role as White House IT manager during the Clinton administration. Three Northrop Grumman contract workers responsible for operating the system testified that Callahan and another federal employee ordered the problem to be kept so secret that it was referred to only as “Project X”.
The final Report of the independent counsel to the Court, filed May 18, 2001, stated, ”The allegations that witnesses were threatened to prevent disclosure to this or other investigations were unsubstantiated.”
Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security
Callahan left the White House in 1999 as the “Project X” investigation was developing, and was appointed Deputy CIO of the US Department of Labor, where she was responsible for overseeing the Department's $420m IT budget. She was subsequently elected President of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM), a professional organization representing federal information technology managers.
According to Department of Labor employees later interviewed by the media, Callahan had become increasingly difficult and hostile to work for. A 2001 report issued by Assistant Inspector General John J. Getek cited "allegations of waste, mismanagement, fraud and abuse" against Callahan's office and faulted her management practices for fostering “low morale” among her staff of 125. Notwithstanding this, Callahan was promoted twice by the agency, and in March 2003, she was named to the position of Deputy CIO of the Department of Homeland Security.
In 2003 Callahan was reported to have obtained qualifications on her government resume from Hamilton University, a diploma mill in Wyoming. She said that she was fooled into believing the institution was accredited. Callahan was placed on paid administrative leave in June 2003, and continued to draw a six-figure DHS salary until her resignation on March 26, 2004. She was never charged with a crime.
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- Final Report, volume entitled, “Regarding Monica Lewinsky and Others”, at 128. The Independent Counsel
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- Miller, Jason (2003-06-16). "Callahan will not seek a second term as the president of AFFIRM". Government Computer News. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- Sperry, Paul (January 2005). "Cut-Rate diplomas". Reason magazine. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- Dizard, Wilson (2003-03-14). "Callahan to move to homeland slot". Government Computer News. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
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- Dizard, Wilson (2004-04-26). "Hill sets plans for confronting diploma mill problem". Government Computer News. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- Profile and interview of Callahan while Deputy CIO at the Department of Labor – Government Computer News