Congressional probe launched into allegations of lewd conduct at ICE

Graphic allegations of "sexually charged" conduct rocking a federal agency have attracted the attention of Congress, with Republican Rep. Michael McCaul launching an inquiry this week into the charges. has learned that McCaul, R-Texas, whose subcommittee oversees the Department of Homeland Security, reached out to the attorney in a recent lawsuit against DHS to begin probing the claims about conduct at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The investigation I'm sure will be all-encompassing," spokesman Mike Rosen said. "(McCaul) believes it's kind of a culture (at DHS) that's grown over there over -- I don't know how long -- a culture that is, unfortunately ... I guess in some ways it's become an incubator for corruption, for misconduct, for waste."

McCaul is chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management for the Homeland Security Committee.

The chairman of the overall security committee, though, clarified Friday that "no decision" has been made to have a full committee investigation. Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., also said no subcommittee has been "authorized" to launch such a probe. King said the full committee will take appropriate action "when it becomes appropriate," but for now is monitoring the allegations.

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For now, McCaul may be looking into the claims on his own.

The inquiry was spurred by the discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed earlier this year by James T. Hayes Jr., the head of the New York office for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hayes claimed he was pushed aside from another ICE post in favor of a woman who knew Secretary Janet Napolitano from their days working together in Arizona. It claimed he was retaliated against when he complained, and that the agency assumed a "frat-house"-style atmosphere.

Two more purported ICE employees came forward this week to complain about "lewd" conduct inside the agency, submitting affidavits that depict graphic comments made by two top officials.

Both accounts described the actions of ICE Chief of Staff Suzanne Barr, who was also mentioned in Hayes' lawsuit. Barr has since gone on leave, according to ICE.

Hayes' attorney, Morris Fischer, confirmed that his office is getting in contact with McCaul, saying in a statement that they want a bipartisan investigation on Capitol Hill.

"Although this is a private lawsuit, this is a public concern," Fischer said.

In the newly emerging affidavits, one of the employees claimed that in October 2009, while in a discussion about Halloween plans, the individual witnessed Barr turn to a senior ICE employee and say: "You a sexy" (expletive deleted).

"She then looked at his crotch and asked, 'How long is it anyway?'" according to the affidavit.

ICE Public Affairs Director Brian Hale said in a written statement that the department would respond "directly and strongly" to the lawsuit in court, but noted internal measures were being taken over the claims against Barr.

ICE has called Hayes' claims "unfounded."

Hayes' attorney released another affidavit late Thursday detailing what purported to be a similar complaint of "anti-male discrimination."

McCaul held a series of hearings earlier this year about management at DHS.

Rosen said the new probe "falls very much in line" with those hearings.