WASHINGTON – A Democratic senator raised concerns Thursday about a Homeland Security Department nominee who deleted statistics about racial disparities in traffic stops from a draft press release.
At a hearing to consider her nomination, Deputy Associate Attorney General Tracy A. Henke told senators she deleted the information from the Justice Department release because "it was misleading."
An April 2005 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that black, Hispanic and white motorists are equally likely to be pulled over by police.
The report noted that blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched, handcuffed, arrested and subjected to force or the threat of it. Henke deleted that information from the press release over objections from the bureau's director, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, who was moved to a new job following the dispute.
No release was issued.
At the time, Henke was an acting assistant attorney general at the Office of Justice Programs, which oversees the statistics bureau. She is now being considered as a Homeland Security assistant secretary for state and local disaster preparedness.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he feared that Henke's actions "may have undermined the office's reputation for objectivity and independence."
In her testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Henke said that before her edits, the press release "didn't accurately portray the information in the underlying report" because the data did not take into account suspects' behavior or demographics in the area.
She also said the report warned against concluding that race was a factor, adding, "So the sentences in the press release were misleading."
Confirmation of a second Homeland Security nominee, Julie L. Myers, is stalled because of concerns that she lacks experience to head department's bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bureau is the federal government's second-largest investigative force.