Erroll Southers, who is President Obama’s pick to head the Transportation Security Administration, has admitted that he had been censured for misusing government database information for personal reasons in 1988. Southers originally said in November that he “asked a co-worker’s husband who worked for the San Diego Police Department to run a background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend,” and that this was an isolated incident. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Southers had subsequently wrote to key senators on the Senate Homeland Security Committee stating, “his first account was incorrect. After reviewing documents, he wrote, he recalled that he had twice conducted the database searches himself, downloaded confidential law enforcement records about his wife’s boyfriend and passed information on to the police department employee.”
Now, the Washington Post reports that seven Republican senators have written (pdf) to the White House and “demanded that the White House provide information about why Southers initially gave Congress an incorrect account about the searches two decades ago, incidents that led to his censure by the FBI.”
“We believe that Mr. Southers submitted erroneous, and possibly misleading information regarding ethical violations during his service with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the senators wrote. The seven senators are Jim DeMint (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), and Mike Johanns (Neb.).
The senators asked the White House to answer 13 questions about Southers’s nomination including: “In addition to a letter of censure, did the FBI take any additional steps to discipline Mr. Southers as a result of his conduct” and “Was a United States Attorney ever consulted regarding Mr. Southers’ unlawful access of law enforcement information? If not, why not? If so, please provide all documents regarding the United States Attorney’s consideration and disposition of the matter.”
Coburn has put a hold on Southers’s nomination pending a response to the letter from the White House. The Post reports, “In a statement Wednesday, a White House spokesman said officials did not know of the discrepancies in Southers’s account until November, well into the nomination process. The spokesman said the White House remains solidly behind Southers as a well-qualified candidate who simply had a lapse in memory.”