Hoyer seeks probe into Park Service

For Immediate Release:

January 16, 2004

Contact:Matthew Cella and Audrey Hudson
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A congressman yesterday demanded that the Interior Department investigate "unauthorized leaks" that he said resulted in a report in The Washington Times about lapses in national security and the firing of U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip, said the so-called leaks were "unacceptable" and suggested that the story was printed to influence the outcome of an appeal by Chief Chambers to save her job.

"Given the timing of what appears to be a selective leak of sensitive security information that directly affects the safety of millions of visitors to the Mall each year, I cannot help but conclude there is a concerted effort to publicly demean and defame U.S. Park Police Chief Chambers by releasing information that is, by law, supposed to be confidential," Mr. Hoyer said.

The Times reported Wednesday that Chief Chambers was removed from office primarily because an Interior Department investigation revealed security lapses at the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument four months ago, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The findings came after a report by the Interior Department's inspector general in March directed Chief Chambers to implement more stringent security requirements around national monuments. The inspector general conducted security reviews at the top nine national parks -- including the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore and the Mall -- and found varying degrees of security lapses in each park, an Interior Department official said.

Officials said that after an inspection at the Washington Monument on the September 11 anniversary last year, they were "horrified" to learn that security still had not improved and that a national icon remained unguarded.

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that reviews the Interior Department's budget, said Mr. Hoyer's concerns are legitimate.

"If this is such a big deal that they fire a [U.S.] Park Police chief, how can they justify releasing this information without having been asked with what seems to be deliberate intent?" Mr. Moran asked.

Mr. Hoyer's letter yesterday to Interior Department Inspector General Earl E. Devaney requested a review of a CNN report containing a written response from the National Park Service about the leaked report.

Mr. Hoyer also asked Mr. Devaney to provide more information about a statement attributed to him in The Washington Post regarding corrected security deficiencies. Mr. Hoyer wrote that it would be "useful to know more detail behind your statement so that my constituents and others who visit the National Mall can do so without unnecessary trepidation."

Chief Chambers, who was hired in February 2002, told reporters in December that she did not have enough money or officers to provide security for national monuments and patrol parks and roadways that are part of the U.S. Park Police's jurisdiction. But taking her complaints public, Interior officials said, violated government regulations.

On Dec. 5, the National Park Service placed Chief Chambers on administrative leave. Twelve days later, officials submitted a six-point document that outlined her removal and charged her with such violations as improper budget communications, improper lobbying, insubordination and violating the chain of command.