Tags: Barack Obama | inspector general | justice | watchdog | oversight | rule

Inspector General: New Obama Policy Diminishes Govt Watchdogs

Inspector General: New Obama Policy Diminishes Govt Watchdogs
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

By    |   Friday, 24 July 2015 09:49 AM

Inspectors general will have to get permission from the agencies they scrutinize to gain access to wiretaps, grand jury, and credit information under new rules introduced by the Obama administration, according to The Washington Post.

The 58-page ruling was issued by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, according to the Post.

The inspector general for the Justice Department said the ruling will undermine his ability to carry out his responsibilities for pursuing fraud and corruption within the government.

"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 Horowitz said in a statement, according to the Post.

Horowitz is chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency which oversees all government watchdogs and also sets policy.

"Congress meant what it said when it authorized Inspectors General to independently access 'all' documents necessary to conduct effective oversight," he said, according to the Post.

Lawmakers from four congressional committees which oversee the DOJ have condemned the ruling and cited numerous inquiries the agency has blocked or delayed by making it more difficult for inspectors general to get access to the records they need.

"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," said Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and John Conyers of Michigan, in a joint statement, according to the Post.

They accused the department of compromising the independence of federal watchdogs.

Officials said that the ruling will likely reduce the effectiveness of watchdogs across the government, the Post reported.

"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," Brian Miller, the former inspector general at the General Services Administration (GSA), told the Post. "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."

Last year, 47 federal investigators said in a letter to Congress that at least three agencies were obstructing requests for documents related to investigations of wrongdoing, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

"We have learned that the Inspectors General for the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency (in his role as Inspector General for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board) and the Department of Justice have recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas," the letter said.

"These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner."

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Inspectors general will have to get permission from the agencies they scrutinize to gain access to wiretaps, grand jury, and credit information under new rules introduced by the Obama administration, according to The Washington Post.
inspector general, justice, watchdog, oversight, rule
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2015-49-24
Friday, 24 July 2015 09:49 AM
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