Homeland Conference Circuit Hits Hawaii

But the foreign officials ABC News spoke with said they were not aware of any private sessions.

"Not at all," the Laotian ambassador, His Excellency Phanthong Phommahaxay, said it was a long breakfast, roughly lasting for one hour.

Ironically, the 10 highest-ranking Asian officials Ridge met with all came to Hawaii from Washington, D.C., themselves, where they work in their countries' embassies.

In fact, Ridge could have driven a few blocks down the street in Washington to meet them.

Clark Ervin, the inspector general of DHS until two days after our interview, said what ABC News found in Hawaii raised serious questions about homeland security priorities.

"It doesn't look good, clearly," Ervin said. "It seems to me the priority of this department ought to be spending every dollar on its core mission, and of course the core of that mission is counter-terrorism. And so every dollar that's spent on something that does not relate directly to the mission of the department is a dollar that's wasted."

Over the last year, Ervin has issued a series of startling reports on how tens of millions of dollars have gone unaccounted for at homeland security, including a Transportation Security Administration awards ceremony with bloated expenses of close to $500,000 -- $1,850 was spent for seven sheet cakes. $85,000 was paid to an event planner.

Lewis said there was a clear ethical line being crossed. "I don't begrudge anyone having a good time," he said. "When it's on the public's nickel and it's during the day and it's involving a life-and-death subject like homeland security, I'm offended by it."

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said she was simply disappointed.

"This agency in some ways, I think more than any, was created with such a sense of urgency, that we needed a real focus on making us safer at home," she said. "And when you see this it just, it really, it makes your heart sink. It's taking advantage of us."

ABC News' Maddy Sauer, Simon Surowicz and Jessica Wang contributed to this report.

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