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Five years ago Walter "Dan" Cadman left South Florida in disgrace. The former director of Florida operations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service had been caught deceiving a congressional task force and then trying to cover up his actions. The U.S. Justice Department, after an investigation into what became known as Kromegate, recommended that Cadman be fired or, at the very least, receive a 30-day suspension and be permanently relieved of management duties.
In 1996 the INS transferred Cadman from his position in Florida to the service's Washington, D.C., headquarters, where he was temporarily demoted to an investigator's position. But two years later, after the public outrage over Kromegate had died down and Cadman's name was all but forgotten, the INS's top brass quietly handed him a new job, a position more important than anyone could have known: The INS made Cadman its counterterrorism chief.
Cadman, as director of the INS National Security Unit, continues to manage a staff and directs criminal investigations across the nation. He also is responsible for working with other federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, to help catch terrorists. The man who had been caught deceiving Congress was soon testifying about the nation's effort to combat terrorism before House and Senate subcommittees.
"If a person can't be trusted, how can he be given a job dealing with terrorism with the INS?" asks U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, a California Republican and chairman of the task force that was deceived during a 1995 inspection of Miami International Airport and the Krome Detention Center in west Miami-Dade. "He should have been fired after Kromegate." (In a 1996 interview with New Times, Gallegly said, "I think it is a disgrace that those we entrust with enforcing the laws of the land would themselves violate the law.... It's clear to me that some [INS employees] are on the wrong side of the bars. There's no question that Dan Cadman violated the law and obstructed justice."
Gallegly, a long-time critic of the INS, says he learned only after the September 11 disasters that Cadman held the important post. And he says Cadman's promotion following the scandal illustrates the chronic mismanagement of the immigration service.
Cadman refused to comment for this article, but INS spokeswoman Nancy Cohen spoke for him. "INS has every confidence that Dan Cadman has the ability to run the National Security Unit," she said. "We're definitely supportive of Dan and his efforts."
The September 11 attacks, however, have placed a spotlight on the failures of the INS. Immigration inspectors, for instance, admitted terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta into the country this past January 10 when he should have been deported. On October 29 President George W. Bush announced that the Justice Department is creating a task force to reform the entire immigration system. Also on October 29 Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, visited INS centers in Miami and met with top officials, including district director John Bulger and union leaders William King and José Touron, who detailed chronic problems at the service in a recent New Times article ("Admitting Terror,"October 18).
Cadman himself illuminated some of the National Security Unit's shortcomings when he testified before a Senate subcommittee in 1998. He conceded that the INS was failing to update computer databases used to track and identify terrorists. He also said the INS and other federal agencies weren't communicating enough with one another, making it possible for terrorists to slip through the cracks.
Yet it seems little has been done to improve the situation since then. "INS's failure has played a key role in the threat to American security," Gallegly says. "There is no question about that. I'm not going to point fingers, but there is simply no enforcement happening at INS."
Cadman's climb through the bureaucracy began when he joined the INS in 1976. After working as an investigator and regional director, he took over the Miami district in 1992. (The Miami district includes Florida and the Bahamas, where the INS prescreens travelers. It is one of the largest and busiest in terms of the number of travel documents reviewed each year.) Three years later, when the seven-member congressional fact-finding team visited Krome and MIA, Cadman was among several high-ranking INS officials who attempted to deceive the Washington politicians into believing that Miami immigration operations were managed well.
Shortly before the task force's visit, Cadman and others abruptly released 58 detainees from the critically overcrowded Krome Detention Center, according to an exhaustive federal investigation. Another 81 individuals were transferred to jails in Jackson and Monroe counties.
To give the illusion that the inspection process at Miami's airport was well-managed, staffing was bulked up and noncriminal detainees were allowed to wait in an unsecured lobby rather than in a less hospitable holding cell. Inspectors also were ordered to remove their gun holsters and handcuffs to portray a kinder, gentler INS that focused on customer service.
After more than 45 employees, many of them union members, blew the whistle on their bosses, Kromegate broke. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Justice Department investigated the matter and, in June 1996, released its findings in a 197-page report. In it Inspector General Michael Bromwich not only detailed the conspiracy behind the INS sham but also explained how Cadman and other officials tried to cover up their wrongdoing.