Published: September 10, 2021
An audit determined that an internal security division had overstepped its powers once it initiated criminal investigations of US citizens and Commerce workers.
Based on an internal assessment by the Commerce Department’s Office of General Counsel, the Investigations and Threat Management Service lacked legal jurisdiction to conduct criminal investigations.
The investigators suggested decommissioning the ITMS unit within 90 days. They also suggested transferring its security responsibilities to other departments within the Commerce.
The internal study discovered that the ITMS was poorly managed. Still, it did not find any direct or documentary proof that ethnic, national origin, or racial bias was at play in individual cases.
Notably, the ITMS examined the Department of Commerce servers for specific Mandarin words and phrases within talent recruitment investigations.
Apart from eliminating ITMS, the investigators suggested that the Commerce:
- Eliminate the criminal law enforcement function (a component of the ITMS mission)
- Reassign the ITMS remaining functions to other offices
- Clarify that the Department lacks the right to enact counterintelligence tasks.
Moreover, the report advised the ITMS cases to be closed and archived. It also suggested that the data gathered by the ITMS should be destroyed. That is to ensure that no information derived from the ITMS records is used to make decisions before undergoing an independent factual corroboration or legal assessment.
The Commerce Department reported it would adopt the recommendations. On top of that, it reiterated that its primary aim is to create an environment where employees feel safe and appreciated.
In a recent statement, the Commerce Department said it had taken personnel actions in response to the findings of misbehavior surrounding the ITMS.