Kevin Deeley, described as “an IT fixture” at the Department of Justice, passed away over the weekend. His cause of death still hasn’t been released. Even the general nature the Deputy CIO’s untimely demise, at age 55, has been suppressed, which raises some scary questions.
With all the controversy that has been swirling around the DOJ and its FBI investigation branch, the information blackout could be an attempt by the department to “circle the wagons” in preparation for an assault by the media.
The possibility that Mr. Deeley took his own life cannot be ignored. Foul play does not seem to be a factor. If it was, the headlines would be screaming it from the rooftops.
If the cause of death was indeed natural, one would expect that a statement to that effect would have been released to reassure the public sometime Monday. Mr. Deeley had no known ailments, and there are no reports he was in a car crash.
If Mr. Deeley did commit suicide, the reason could easily have something to do with his work at the Justice Department. He was a senior Information Technology official with the title of Deputy CIO of the Justice Management Division.
The role he may have played regarding the illicit text messages, damaging to the FBI, that were exchanged between staffers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page is especially concerning.
One batch of messages, covering a particularly noteworthy span of time, conveniently disappeared when Congress asked for them. The missing texts were exchanged in a crucial period between the 2016 election and the appointment of Mr. Mueller as Special Counsel.
Blame was placed on a “glitch” that caused problems with the storage of messages on certain phones after a software update. They were embarrassingly recovered soon after.
Mr. Deeley has “a long history with the agency.” He first started in 1984 in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI. By 2012, he had climbed the ladder to the post of deputy CIO.
For five months spanning the end of 2013 and into 2014, Mr. Deeley served as acting CIO until Mr. Klimavicz was appointed.
He was charged with managing the day to day internal operations “including policy, process and the delivery of applications, networks, security, and data center services.” His technical and managerial skills in the Information Technology sector earned Mr. Deeley a number of awards.
In 2007, his work “spearheading department-wide initiatives for protecting data and developing a unified network that led to the creation of the Justice Security Operations Center” was officially recognized.
Mr. Deeley would have been the man in charge of the systems used to monitor the phones of Justice Department employees. It may have been his responsibility to ensure that each and every communication was logged and if appropriate, recorded for use later.
One message thread exchanged by Page and Strzok dated August of 2016 would have been particularly troublesome for the Justice Department and may have been something Mr. Deeley found uncomfortable as well.
They were discussing Page’s plans to get an iPhone. “Have a meeting with turgal about getting an iPhone in a day or so.” Strzok was happy to give it a try. “I’m happy to pilot that… We get around our security/monitoring issues?”
The “Turgal” that Ms. Page mentioned was James Turgal, executive assistant director for the FBI’s Information and Technology Branch.
“No, he’s proposing that we just stop following them. Apparently, the requirement to capture texts came from OMB, but we’re the only org (I’m told) who is following that rule. His point is, if no one else is doing it why should we.”
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also jumped ship recently. A number of other ranking FBI and Justice Department officials have decided in the past few weeks to try out the private sector for a while.
Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus confirmed that Mr. Deeley passed away over the weekend in an email to Justice Management Division staff on Monday.
“It is with deep sadness that I am letting you know the heartbreaking news that Kevin Deeley passed away over the weekend. Kevin’s passing is a huge loss for us, the Department, and the entire federal IT community.”
Joseph Klimavicz, who holds the CIO post as head of Deeley’s Management Division branch of the DOJ added, “We will feel his loss keenly in the OCIO and throughout the department. My condolences to each of you who had the good fortune of knowing Kevin and are now grieving the loss of a dear friend and an inspiring mentor.”
The Justice Department does not have immediate plans to name a successor.