IF non-democrats had lied and stonewalled inspectors general to the point that 47 had written a joint letter of complaint AND THEN IF the non-democrats lied and stonewalled until the DOJ IG complained almost a year later AND THEN IF the non-democrats stonewalled for a few more months AND THEN IF the non-democrats stonewalled so that watchdog groups complained, WOULD the “journalistic” wing of the democrats notice?
The Daily Caller Account of Watchdog Calls for Transparency
According to a 5 November 2015 article in the Daily Caller:
Federal watchdogs are urging Congress to make sure all inspectors general, not just those at Department of Justice, have unfettered access to all official documents their respective agencies produce.
The Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency fired off a letter to top members of Congress Thursday encouraging Congress to reiterate through new legislation that the 1978 Inspector General Act already entitles IGs to all agency records.
The letter comes two days after the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs asked Congress to pass legislation specifying that only the DOJ IG is entitled to all department records. Previously, the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel denied the department’s IG access to wiretapped communications or grand jury testimony.
But the proposed fix is too little, too late, for an IG community where other federal watchdogs are facing similar access problems.
Revolt of the watchdogs: Federal inspectors general vs. the Obama stonewall
In a New York Post article dated 22 October 2015, the plight of independent watchdogs dealing with Obama’s lack of transparency becomes a little clearer:
In the sadistic era of fraudulent Hope and Change, inspectors general inside the federal government have been kicked, neutered and starved of the authority and information they need to do their jobs.
It’s transparently clear: President Obama loathes and fears independent watchdogs.
Last year, 47 of the nation’s 73 federal IGs signed an open letter decrying the Obama administration’s stonewalling of their investigations. The White House, they reported, had placed “serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work” of IGs at the Peace Corps, the EPA and the Department of Justice, and jeopardized their “ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”
While defanging Washington’s most effective guardians on the public’s trust and tax dollars, the Obama administration has stocked the government with whitewash puppies who’ve compromised the independence of IG offices at the Department of Homeland Security, the Interior Department and DOJ.
Earlier this year in congressional testimony, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz exposed the Obama administration’s “continued refusal by the Department to recognize that Section 6(a) of the Inspector General Act authorizes the DOJ OIG to obtain access to all records in the Department’s possession that we need in order to perform our oversight responsibilities” as the office investigates the IRS witch hunts, the Fast and Furious scandal, and systemic public disclosure evasions. The FBI has repeatedly run out the clock to thwart IG document production requests and unilaterally claimed power to pre-screen and limit records disclosures.
In July, the White House arrogantly announced that IGs needed to gain permission from the heads of agencies they were investigating to gain access to grand jury, wiretap and fair credit information. Horowitz noted this week that “[p]ending legislation in the Senate, S. 579, and the House, H.R. 2395, would restore IG independence and empower IGs to conduct the kind of rigorous, independent and thorough oversight that taxpayers expect.”
Let me remind you that this is the same administration that:
- Smeared and sacked AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin after he blew the whistle on financial corruption and sexual misconduct by Sacramento mayor and Obama crony Kevin Johnson.
- Forced the abrupt retirement of Amtrak’s longtime inspector general, Fred Weiderhold Jr. after he met with Amtrak officials to discuss the results of an independent report by the Washington, D.C., law firm, Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, which concluded that the “independence and effectiveness” of the Amtrak inspector general’s office “are being substantially impaired” by the agency’s Law Department. Amtrak bosses had effectively gagged their budgetary watchdogs from communicating with Congress without preapproval; required that all Amtrak documents be “pre-screened” (and in some cases redacted) before being turned over to the inspector general’s office; took control over the IG’s $5 million portion of federal stimulus dollars; and regularly retained outside law firms shielded from IG reach.
- Stonewalled the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program responsible for monitoring hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funds spent on bailout programs. Obama Treasury Department officials initially refused to provide documents on the bailout-funded AIG bonus program and ran to the DOJ for cover.
- Bullied budget watchdogs at the Office of Personnel Management, who received a “not so veiled threat” from the Office of Management and Budget to refrain from voicing any concerns about Obama’s 2010 budget to Congress. According to then OPM IG Patrick McFarland, an OMB staffer threatened to “make life miserable for us” if McFarland’s office dared to exercise provisions in the Inspector General Act noting any financial impacts that might “substantially inhibit” the watchdog agency’s ability to do its job.
Just last week, the Veterans Administration IG issued a report detailing horrific neglect and mismanagement in the Phoenix VA system, where a whopping 45 percent of vets with bladder, prostate, and urinary tract problems were denied or delayed car over the last two years. Medical records are missing or misfiled. At least five patients died as a result of the VA’s dereliction of duty to those who served and sacrificed.
Empowering IGs to uncover mismanagement in the public sector without fear of reprisal and roadblocks is quite literally a matter of life and death. Restore the letter of the federal inspector general law, Congress and unleash the taxpayers’ guard dogs!
IGs ask Congress to Help after DOJ Restricts Access to Info
In a 17 August 2015 article by Judicial Watch, the difficulties of working with an administration known for stonewalling are explained:
Watchdogs assigned to root out fraud and corruption inside federal government agencies encounter so many barriers during their investigations that they’re calling on Congress to pass legislation that will guarantee the access they’re already supposed to have.
The cry comes on the heels of a new Justice Department restriction on information that its inspector general (IG) can access during agency probes. Remember that President Obama promised to run the most transparent administration in history yet the Department of Justice (DOJ), an extension of the executive office, is limiting what its watchdog can see during what’s supposed to be an independent investigation. This goes contrary to a 1978 law requiring that inspectors general act autonomously when they conduct probes of the federal agencies they’re assigned to keep in check.
This is hardly the case. In fact, Judicial Watch has reported for years about the obstacles that inspectors general have faced as they do their job to crack down on waste, fraud and corruption in government. There are 73 IGs and, although they report to Congress, each is appointed by the president. For years current and former employees at IG offices have alleged that the watchdogs work too closely with the leaders of the agencies they investigate and that many have succumbed to political pressure, in both Republican and Democrat administrations.
In fact, a few years ago a number of IGs came under fire and faced retaliation and scrutiny after exposing wrongdoing at the agencies they were charged with investigating.
The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency refers to the DOJ’s new policy in its letter to Congress, writing that it “sharply curtails the authority of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (DOJ-IG) to independently access all records necessary to carry out its oversight responsibilities.” Furthermore, the IGs point out, it “represents a serious threat to the independent authority of not only the DOJ-IG but to all Inspectors General.” These watchdogs must have access, without delay, to all information and data in an agency’s possession that is deemed necessary to conduct oversight functions, the letter states.
Justice Dept. watchdog blasts his own agency
The Washington Post published a 24 July 2015 article covering the frustrations of Michael Horowitz, inspector general with the Department of Justice:
The Obama administration has ruled that inspectors general have to get permission from the agency they’re monitoring for access to wiretaps, grand jury and credit information, a decision that immediately was denounced by watchdogs and lawmakers.
The Justice Department’s inspector general said the 58-page ruling released Thursday by the agency’s Office of Legal Counsel will undermine his ability to do his job rooting out fraud and corruption.
“Without such access, our office’s ability to conduct its work will be significantly impaired, and it will be more difficult for us to detect and deter waste, fraud, and abuse, and to protect taxpayer dollars,” Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in a statement. Horowitz is chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, a watchdog over the watchdogs that also sets policy.
His disapproval was followed by a bipartisan condemnation from four congressional leaders whose committees have oversight over DOJ, citing numerous inquiries the agency has delayed or blocked by making it harder for investigators’ to get the records they need, particularly intercepted communications.
“The department’s refusal to provide records on a timely basis as required by law wastes months in bureaucratic roadblocks and frustrates the independent oversight Congress created inspectors general to provide,” Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) said in a joint statement, accusing the legal counsel’s office of undermining the independence of federal watchdogs.
The rare internecine conflict dates to 2010, when the FBI started restricting the DOJ inspector general’s access to documents whose confidentiality is protected by law, including grand jury testimony and wiretaps. The IG’s review of the controversial Fast and Furious case, the failed sting operation that lost track of more than 1,000 government-issued guns, one of which was used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent, was delayed.
“Imagine if we had a DOJ [inspector general] during Watergate looking at the FBI’s conduct and the Attorney General had this opinion to deny or delay access to this kind of information,” said Brian Miller, the former inspector general at the General Services Administration who cracked open a spending scandal in Las Vegas. “Or the GSA administrator having the power to withhold certain information regarding the Las Vegas conference…The “Mother May I” legal opinion sets a bad precedent and will slow effective oversight.”
A year ago, 47 federal inspectors general wrote a letter to Congress complaining that the agencies they oversee had refused to release some documents they said were critical to their jobs as independent watchdogs.
Congress, when it approved the Justice Department’s budget last year, included a section intended to improve watchdogs’ access to sensitive records. But the legal counsel ruled that wiretap law and grand-jury secrecy rules preclude the release of information for investigations “that are only tangentially related to criminal law enforcement or foreign counterintelligence efforts,” such as “routine financial audits.”
Agency watchdogs tell lawmakers that officials stonewalled probes
In a 5 August 2014 article in The Hill, the complaints of 47 inspectors general were heard:
Forty-seven independent inspectors general who oversee the Obama administration are accusing officials of blocking their access to government documents, warning of “potentially serious challenges” to their authority.
“Refusing, restricting, or delaying an Inspector General’s access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance,” the inspectors general wrote in a letter to the House and Senate Oversight Committee chairmen and ranking members.
The letter charges that they were denied documents on at least three separate occasions.
In one instance, the Peace Corps allegedly refused to provide access to documents for an investigation into whether the agency was properly addressing sexual abuse cases.
The inspectors general also accuse the Department of Justice of withholding FBI records that had been previously produced to investigators, and the Environmental Protection Agency of withholding documents related to an examination of the Chemical Safety Board.
The inspectors general say the disputes are “not unique” and that other outside investigators had “faced similar obstacles to their work.”
“Even when we are ultimately able to resolve these issues with senior agency leadership, the process is often lengthy, delays our work, and diverts time and attention from substantive oversight activities,” the inspectors general wrote.