Malleable Leaders; Directionless Agency

By Dan Cadman on February 20, 2014

News reports tell us that John Sandweg, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), one of the largest law enforcement organizations in the federal government and an integral component of the Department of Homeland Security, is resigning after less than half a year on the job.

This is okay. Sandweg, one of Janet Napolitano's praetorian guard while she ran DHS, lent the agency nothing by his presence, and takes away nothing with his departure.

John Sandweg

Some media organizations, such as Fox News, have focused on the fact that Sandweg brought with him little in the way of credentials establishing that he had the chops to do the job well, or even competently: no law enforcement or prosecutorial experience. Quite the reverse, in fact: he was a controversial defense attorney who often represented the worst of the worst.

What is more, while he was part of Napolitano's inner circle, Sandweg was accused of politicizing the department's handling of Freedom of Information Act requests by stonewalling rather than responding on the merits and on the record, contrary to what one might expect from an administration that constantly touts its "transparency".

According to the Fox report, "Sources said Sunday they hope Johnson will choose a replacement for Sandweg who has come up through the ranks of the agency with years of law enforcement experience."

This may not be enough. The description perfectly fits Sandweg's predecessor at ICE, John Morton, a man who had come up through the ranks, but whose hallmark was his Gumby-like malleability and willingness to charge down any path desired by his political masters; and whose legacy at the agency was one of repeatedly abrogating his law enforcement responsibilities through ill-conceived policies of "prosecutorial discretion" allowing tens of thousands of illegal aliens to walk away from their deportation proceedings after Morton's prosecutors moved to have their cases dismissed.

What the agency needs, first and foremost, is a bipedal vertebrate no matter what his (or her) background or experience.