BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Poor vetting of staffers brings concerns

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s office should have more properly vetted its shared information technology, or IT, staffers before welcoming the workers already being used by other Democratic members of Congress.

Former Ryan staffer Hina Alvi is named in a criminal complaint against her husband, Imran Awan, who was arrested on a bank fraud charge as he attempted to leave the country for Pakistan last week.

An affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., states probable cause exists to believe that the couple had engaged in a scheme to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations made to obtain a loan.

Alvi was an employee shared among Ryan’s office and other congressional offices, Michael Zetts, Ryan’s communication director, explained last week.

Ryan’s office appears to have acted quickly to terminate the Pakistani worker once they learned of a criminal investigation; however, still more than $171,000 in taxpayer funds had been paid out from his office to the IT aide, according to the RNC, since 2011. This happened in February after it came to light that Alvi and her family members were under investigation for possible criminal violations of the House of Representatives rules governing IT, acquisition and personnel.

Awan was arrested trying to flee the country to Pakistan while under FBI investigation for mishandling congressional email and computer systems. In March, federal agents searched Alvi before she and her three children boarded a flight to Doha, Qatar, on their way to Lahore, Pakistan, according to the complaint against Awan. She had more than $12,000, and numerous pieces of luggage, including cardboard boxes filled with household goods and food, the complaint affidavit states.

Alvi left the country with the children, who were removed from school in Virginia. She is not expected to return. Her husband, Awan, pleaded not guilty to bank fraud July 25. He has been released and is court-ordered not to travel beyond a 50-mile radius of his home.

Awan also has been fired from his position as an IT staffer for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., last week after his arrest.

Taxpayers deserve to know what sensitive information these aides may have had access to while working in these representatives’ offices. Ryan’s spokesman has said they have no reason to believe any.

One would think that we, as a country, would make smarter decisions than to give access to information maintained in our government’s computers to citizens of untrusted nations. Further, one would expect that when elected federal legislators like Ryan hire aides and staffers, they would conduct complete vetting with in-depth background checks, and not simply follow along party lines by sharing staffers.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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