A government watchdog group has attacked the Justice Department for failing to discipline hundreds of federal prosecutors who have committed serious misconduct during their cases, The Washington Times reported.
The Project on Government Oversight revealed that there were 650 cases of mostly "reckless" or "intentional" infractions from 2002 to 2013, including one incident in which a prosecutor actually had a "close personal relationship" with a defendant.
Calling them "bad apples," POGO claimed Attorney General Eric Holder's office has declined to name the government attorneys
involved, allowing them to get away with and continue their actions.
Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Montana Sen. John Tester, a Democrat, introduced a bill on Thursday calling for closer scrutiny of possible prosecutorial misconduct by handing the Justice Department's independent inspector general the authority to examine such cases.
"Current law invites undue influence from the attorney general's office into the process and should be changed to ensure the integrity of investigations of misconduct within the Justice Department," said Lee.
According to the Times, the Justice Department's office of professional responsibility is given the power to probe cases of misconduct.
"The lack of transparency insulates the Justice Department from meaningful public scrutiny," said Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director. "Our findings raise serious concerns that the attorney general's office isn't aggressively overseeing or disciplining its bad apples."
Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce told the newspaper that it has not released the names because of Privacy Act issues. But she noted that defense attorneys and judges are informed about what actions, if any, are taken to resolve misconduct accusations.
"The department takes all allegations of attorney misconduct seriously, and that is why the office of professional responsibility thoroughly reviews each case and refers its findings of misconduct to relevant state bar associations when the rules of the state bar are implicated," she said.
"As the POGO report itself points out, the department has set a higher standard for its attorneys than do many state bars."
The watchdog group based its findings on records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Justice Department documents, and data from the GovernmentAttic.org website, said the Times.
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