Laura Crabtree 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 workers testified that Callahan threatened to jail them if they talked about "Project X" to anyone, even their spouses. One technician, Robert Haas, said she warned him "there will be a jail cell with your name on it."
Under oath, Callahan denied making these threats. The final Report of the independent counsel to the Court, filed May 18, 2001, stated that the contractors' threat allegations 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 $420 million 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. Several employees stated that she was known for "belittling and even firing subordinates who did not understand the technical jargon she apparently picked up while studying for her doctorate in computer information systems." 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. Nevertheless, 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 all three degrees on her government resume--her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees--from Hamilton University, a diploma mill in Wyoming. Furthermore, she allegedly paid to have all three degrees backdated to 1993, 1995, and 2000, respectively. Callahan was placed on paid administrative leave in June 2003, but 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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- Profile and interview of Callahan while Deputy CIO at the Department of Labor – Government Computer News