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Second Obama Nominee for TSA Withdraws in Scandal

Retired Major General Robert A. Harding once claimed that he was disabled — by sleep apnea! — to help score his company a $99.7 million Army contract.

by
Annie Jacobsen

Bio

March 30, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Large cracks began to appear in the ice around retired Major General Harding. He admitted to “making mistakes” regarding the overbilling.

Last week, the Senate discovered that the career military officer won a $99.7 million contract in 2008 from the Army on the grounds that Harding Security Associates was a “veteran-owned” and “black-owned” company, and that Harding was a “service disabled vet.” The ailment that Harding claimed made him qualify as “disabled” was sleep apnea. Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow broke this story, which many believe shattered the ice around Harding and forced him to withdraw his nomination.

In a statement released by the White House late Friday evening, Harding said:

Distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this administration nor the Department of Homeland Security.

Oddly, the White House had nothing to say about their nominee’s shameful disability claim. Previously, the White House stated that it was unaware that Harding’s company had sent employees as interrogators to Abu Ghraib, but that Harding Security Associates had done nothing wrong in doing so and that Harding’s employees were not involved in the abuse scandal.

The president’s spokesman, Nicholas Shapiro, now only said:

The president is disappointed in this outcome.

What outcome is Obama disappointed in? The questionable business practices of his nominee, or the abilities of his own vetting team?

In January, President Obama’s first TSA nominee, Erroll Southers, withdrew his nomination after it was revealed Southers had used a federal criminal database to access private information about his ex-wife’s boyfriend when he worked for the FBI.

The TSA remains without a leader for the foreseeable future, and one does not need to suffer from sleep apnea to toss and turn over this.

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Annie Jacobsen writes the "Backstory" blog (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/back-story/) for the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
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