When the feds defy their own watchdogs

By all neutral assessments, it has to be regarded as stunning disregard for a carefully devised system of federal oversight: Inspectors General say they are not being allowed to properly oversee the agencies they are assigned to police.

Never before have so many Inspectors General banded together to issue the same complaint. Forty-seven of them, including Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz, have gone on record to say federal agencies are stonewalling their investigations.

At a hearing this week, both Democrats and Republicans from the House Oversight Committee criticized the Justice Department for its failure to recognize the IG’s authority. For example, the FBI (which falls under the Justice Department) has refused to provide the Justice Department IG with records requested as part of its investigations. Specifically, the FBI fought the IG’s requests to access Justice Department records related to the Fast and Furious gunwalking debacle.

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IG Horowitz testified that he and the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency “strenuously disagree with the FBI’s position, which we have both made clear to the Department’s leadership.”

Last May, the Justice Department asked its Office of Legal Counsel to issue an opinion on the FBI’s disputed stance. However, none has been provided more than eight months later.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz

“(W)e are still waiting for that opinion,” testified Horowitz, “even though, in our view, this matter is straightforward and could have been resolved by the Department’s leadership without requesting an opinion from [the Office of Legal Counsel]. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that OLC issue its opinion promptly because the existing process at the Department, which…essentially assumes the correctness of the FBI’s legal position, undermines our independence by requiring us to seek permission from the Department’s leadership in order to access certain records. The status quo cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”

Among the other IG’s who say they are not receiving the cooperation from the agencies they police, as required by law, are: those for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the EPA, the Commerce Department, NASA and the Federal Communications Commission.



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