The Department of the Interior’s computer systems played a major role in the breach of systems belonging to the Office of Personnel Management, and DOI officials were called before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday to answer questions about the over 3,000 vulnerabilities in agency systems discovered in a penetration test run by Interior’s Inspector General office. But there was one unexpected revelation during the hearing: a key Interior technology official who had access to sensitive systems for over five years had lied about his education, submitting falsified college transcripts produced by an online service.
The official, Faisal Ahmed, was assistant director of the Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security from 2007 to 2013, heading its Technology division. He claimed to have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and a master’s degree in technology management from the University of Central Florida—but he never attended either of those schools. He resigned from his position at Interior when the fraudulent claim was exposed by a representative of the University of Central Florida’s alumni association, who discovered he had never attended the school after Ahmed accepted and then suddenly deleted a connection with her on LinkedIn.
Faisal did not leave government service, however—he took another government job at the Census Bureau, and is apparently still there, according to a report by the National Journal. While his name had been redacted from the official report, Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming mentioned him by name multiple times during the committee hearing.
“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,” Lummis said, “and that he had falsified his background, and that now it appears that he is working for another federal agency, the U.S. Census Bureau.”
Educational credential fraud has been an issue in the past in the federal government, though previous investigations have largely focused on government employees using government money to obtain unsubstantiated degrees from “diploma mills.” Faisal, ironically, received federal funds to obtain further education through the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows Program in 2011 despite having no previous formal education. The current tuition for that program is $21,200.