Table of Contents:
- James Bond once worked for the EPA
- Torture and the Taliban
- So much for EPA oversight. John Beale, EPA's bizarre James Bond, claimed to be a CIA agent for 13 years — and almost got away with it.
Three years later in 2008, Beale didn’t come to work for six months, brazenly telling EPA supervisors he was working on a special CIA election-year project related to “candidate security.” Even Beale's six-month absence didn't wake up EPA officials: Leave, travel, bonuses — all continued to be approved by EPA senior staff.
Gina McCarthy, current EPA administrator, took over OAR in 2009 and Beale carried on without a hitch. As Michael Isikoff writes at NBC: “To explain his long absences, Beale told agency officials — including McCarthy — that he was engaged in intelligence work for the CIA, either at agency headquarters or in Pakistan. At one point he claimed to be urgently needed in Pakistan because the Taliban was torturing his CIA replacement …”
From Beale’s secret agent emails to the EPA: “I am at Langley this morning.” Another: “I am in Pakistan … hope to be back in time for Christmas … Ho, ho, ho …”
From an internal EPA bulletin from McCarthy to EPA staffers regarding Beale: “We are keeping him well hidden so he won’t get scooped away from OAR anytime soon.”
And the band played on. Almost. In May of 2011, Beale officially “retired” — yet continued to draw full pay for the next 19 months. In March 2012, an EPA staffer told McCarthy that Beale was still receiving a paycheck, but the matter never made it to the Office of Inspector General until Feb. 11, 2013.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God. How could this possibly have happened in this agency … I’ve worked for the government for 35 years. I’ve never seen a situation like this,” Assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan told NBC.
See related: EPA loves privacy rights, at least its own
Sullivan continued: “There’s a certain culture here at the EPA where the mission is the most important thing. They don’t like criminal investigators. They tend to be very trusting and accepting.”
(It seems very difficult to regard “trusting and accepting” as an even ballpark description of the EPA.)
In total, Beale missed 2.5 years of work as a secret agent. But if he wasn’t at Langley or battling the Taliban, what was he doing with all the time off? “He spent much of the time he was purportedly working for the CIA at his Northern Virginia home riding bikes, doing housework and reading books, or at a vacation house on Cape Cod,” writes Isikoff.
He pled guilty in September 2013 to bilking taxpayers out of roughly $900,000 in salary and other benefits, and was sentenced to 32 months in prison.
In the end, Beale’s own greed did him in. If not for a sham “retirement” and continuing paycheck, EPA’s James Bond never would have been caught.
So much for oversight; so much for internal control at one of Washington’s most powerful agencies.