The Work-Shirking Secrets of the World’s Laziest Government Employee

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Dec. 16 2013 4:00 PM

The Work-Shirking Secrets of the World’s Laziest Government Employee

169408539
Perhaps John C. Beale took this sign outside the EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to mean "Stop working."

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The “American dream” is a nebulous concept. Some say that the phrase refers to the idea that, in America, anyone who works hard can find great success. I, however, maintain that the real American dream is to find great success while doing as little work as possible. By that definition, I’d say that John C. Beale is one of the greatest heroes in American history.

Michael Isikoff of NBC News brings us the absolutely bizarre story of Beale, a workplace fabulist for the ages, who, on Wednesday, will be sentenced for defrauding his employer out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the most ridiculous manner imaginable. Beale was the highest-paid employee at the Environmental Protection Agency, a climate expert who had worked as a senior policy advisor on global warming and carbon emissions issues for decades. But as Isikoff reports, he was also apparently a very, very lazy man who would do anything to avoid doing his job.

Advertisement

Beale would disappear from the office for months at a time, drawing his full paycheck while doing no work whatsoever. He covered his tracks with the mother of all phony excuses:

To explain his long absences, Beale told agency officials—including McCarthy—that he was engaged in intelligence work for the CIA, either at agency headquarters or in Pakistan. At one point he claimed to be urgently needed in Pakistan because the Taliban was torturing his CIA replacement, according to Sullivan.
“Due to recent events that you have probably read about, I am in Pakistan,” he wrote McCarthy in a Dec. 18, 2010 email. “Got the call Thurs and left Fri. Hope to be back for Christmas ….Ho, ho, ho.”

But Beale wasn’t actually a CIA operative. He had never even been to Langley. Instead, NBC reports that Beale “spent much of the time he was purportedly working for the CIA at his Northern Virginia home riding bikes, doing housework and reading books, or at a vacation house on Cape Cod.” (Oddly, this sounds very similar to the plot of the next James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Clam Chowder.)

Beale’s story eventually fell apart. He pleaded guilty to theft of government property in September and will be sentenced on Wednesday; prosecutors want Beale to serve at least 30 months in prison. And yet I can’t help but be impressed by his chutzpah. I’d bet that all of us, at one point or another, have told a lie in order to get a day off from work. But we usually try to keep those stories within the boundaries of plausibility—“I am very sick today,” for instance. Beale, however, went in the opposite direction and offered the most ridiculous excuse possible. And yet people believed it, for years! In my opinion, the real fault here lies not with Beale, but with his superiors, who failed to realize that real CIA operatives don’t boast about their missions in casual intra-office emails.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You

It spreads slowly.

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?