July 15, 2015 A federal employee occupied a high-ranking technology position at the Interior Department for several years before an investigation found that he had faked his education, according to a report published by the agency’s inspector general in 2013 and obtained by National Journal.
The man, Faisal Ahmed, was the assistant director of the technology division of the Office of Law Enforcement and Security between 2007 and 2013. After he left his job at the Department of the Interior, Ahmed was hired by the Census Bureau, where he is currently employed.
The report, which has not been made public, was unexpectedly revealed at a Wednesday committee hearing, during a rocky few months for the government’s information technology services. The director of the Office of Personnel Management stepped down last week after her agency revealed that a total of more than 22 million individuals were affected by a pair of data breaches, and other departments and agencies have come under scrutiny for their IT practices.
Ahmed’s name is redacted in the report, but Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis referred to him by his full name multiple times while discussing the report at a Wednesday subcommittee hearing of the House Oversight Committee. Lummis is chairwoman of the committee’s subpanel on the Interior Department.
According to the report, Ahmed obtained false university transcripts through an online service. He claimed to have obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh and a master’s degree from the University of Central Florida, and submitted fake transcripts to his government file.
Lummis said Wednesday she was disturbed by the level of access that Ahmed had. “I’m a little concerned—no, well, I’m more than a little concerned that he had access to law enforcement sensitive materials and other secure information, that he had falsified his background, and that now it appears that he is working for another federal agency, the U.S. Census Bureau,” she said.
The Census Bureau said Thursday that Ahmed is a “current employee” there. According to the statement provided to National Journal, Ahmed was hired in August 2014, more than a year after he left his job at the Department of the Interior.
“After hiring Mr. Ahmed, the Census Bureau was informed of his conduct at the U.S Department of the Interior, and his matter is currently under review,” the statement read.
“Pending review, the Census Bureau has taken steps to ensure that Mr. Ahmed does not have access to sensitive Department information,” a spokeswoman added Thursday night.
Ahmed could not be found in a search of the online directories of either the Census Bureau or the Department of Commerce, which houses the census.
Ahmed worked for Interior for more than five years before he was investigated for the false transcripts. He resigned three days after the investigation began in early July 2013, according to the report.
LinkedIn was Ahmed’s undoing. In 2013, a representative of the University of Central Florida’s alumni association was searching for graduates living in the Washington area when she found his LinkedIn profile, which claimed he received a master’s in technology management there in 1993, the report said.
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The representative invited Ahmed to connect with her on LinkedIn. He accepted, but later deleted the connection. Finding this behavior strange, she called up the university registrar and found that Ahmed never attended the institution, according to the report. She then reached out to his employer, setting off the investigation.
Ahmed told investigators that the only formal education he ever received was at the Harvard Kennedy School, a program he attended after joining Interior and which the government paid for.
An internal newsletter from 2011, published in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, announced that Ahmed completed the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows Program and returned to his job at the department from on May 15, 2011.
The program’s website shows that the tuition for a session is $21,200.
Ahmed told investigators that he knew his actions were wrong, and said he did not know why he did what he did. “I just … wanted to be something I’m not, I guess,” the report quoted him.
A spokesperson for the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General would not comment on the report.
Ahmed’s role as a technology officer and an assistant director likely gave him access to privileged information. The Office of Law Enforcement and Security, where he worked, was established after the Sept. 11 attacks to help the Interior Department keep its visitors and monuments safe, and represent the agency in the Intelligence Community.
An archived version of the technology office’s website from June 2013 describes Ahmed’s role then, and reflects his claims that he attended both the University of Central Florida and the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh.
The National Student Clearinghouse, which handles enrollment verification for both institutions, said it would not verify Ahmed’s educational history for the media.
The Department of the Interior referred Ahmed’s case to the Justice Department after the investigation, but the attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case. Kendall said she was not told why the Justice Department turned down the case.
This article was updated with a statement from the U.S. Census Bureau.