Bad Watchdog

Project on Government Oversight

What happens when the watchdog tasked with overseeing the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country doesn't do its job?


Bad Watchdog

What happens when the watchdog tasked with overseeing the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country doesn't do its job? In a six-part series, host Maren Machles and POGO investigative reporters uncover a shocking pattern of misconduct at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, which resulted in a failure to investigate some of the most troubling events in recent history.

Featured Guests

Where To Start

The Missing Text Messages - Season 1 Episode 1

How did a peaceful transfer of power devolve into the first breach of the U.S. Capitol in over two centuries? Deleted Secret Service text messages may hold important answers about what happened on January 6, 2021, but Homeland Security watchdog Joseph Cuffari failed to inform Congress for months they were missing. What’s more, Cuffari refused a request to help recover the text messages, and he halted an internal Secret Service investigation into their deletion.

Government watchdogs, called inspectors general, are supposed to hold powerful actors accountable. When they don’t do their jobs, the impacts can be disastrous. Investigators at the Project On Government Oversight examine Cuffari’s initial response to the missing Secret Service text messages and explore his abrupt change of course after a former White House aide gave shocking testimony about then-President Trump’s actions on January 6th.

The Tip of the Iceberg - Season 1 Episode 2

A troubling pattern of ignoring serious misconduct at the Department of Homeland Security begins to emerge. Despite widespread condemnation of law enforcement’s use of tear gas on Black Lives Matter protesters gathered in Lafayette Square in Washington, Homeland Security watchdog Joseph Cuffari declined to investigate the incident. Investigative reporters Nick Schwellenbach and Adam Zagorin walk Maren through Cuffari’s baffling refusal to investigate the Secret Service’s role in the violence in Lafayette Square or the abuse of migrants by Customs and Border Protection agents.

Abuse of Power and People - Season 1 Episode 3

Nick and Adam discover that Cuffari’s office removed damaging findings from an official report about dozens of cases of domestic abuse by Homeland Security law enforcement agents with access to government-issued firearms, and they poke holes in Cuffari’s excuses for refusing to criticize the agencies he’s supposed to hold accountable. Maren circles up with experts to learn about how the Department of Homeland Security became home to the largest and least accountable law enforcement agency in the federal government.

Meet The Hosts

Maren Machles

Host; Investigative Producer

Maren Machles is an investigative producer at POGO. She hosts and produces the organization's first-ever investigative podcast, Bad Watchdog. The podcast fuses her colleagues' hard-hitting investigations with narrative storytelling to hold the federal government's most powerful agencies and figures to account. She joined POGO as a researcher on the Investigations and Research team in 2022, overseeing the organization's tipline and investigating the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Customs and Border Protection. Before joining POGO, Maren worked with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, researching, documenting, and advocating for community-led solutions to the digital divide across the country and specifically within tribal communities. Previously, Maren was an investigative journalist with the Scripps Washington Bureau where she covered the U.S. immigration system, criminal justice, tribal justice issues, gender violence, and influential political figures. She has spent her career digging into the finances and backgrounds of powerful political figures, and into the systemic oppression of marginalized communities. Maren was a recipient of the 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Grand Prize Award for her work on criminal justice issues in Indian Country. In 2021, she was part of a team that was nominated for a Peabody and won the Investigative Reporters and Editors' Audio – Small award for their work investigating the Louisville Metro Police Department after Breonna Taylor was killed by police. Her work has appeared on NPR, Stitcher Premium, PBS NewsHour, Twin Cities PBS, USA Today, Newsy/Scripps News, DecodeDC, Long Beach Post, and across Scripps' local television stations.

Where To Listen

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