The intended outcome here is two-fold. ♦ #1 Any Inspector General will now have to ask a white house appointed cabinet head for approval to access investigative material; obviously this gives an automatic heads’ up to the White House. ♦ #2 The investigative material is now subject to being hidden from the investigators; obviously this allows unlawful conduct to remain hidden.
WASHINGTON DC – The Obama administration formally announced that inspectors general will have to get permission from their agency heads to gain access to grand jury, wiretap and fair credit information — an action that severely limits the watchdogs’ oversight capabilities, independence and power to uncover fraud.
An opinion, issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, says the Inspector General Act of 1978 — which was written by Congress to create the government watchdogs in order to help maintain integrity within their agencies — does not have the authority to override nondisclosure provisions in other laws, most notably in regard to grand jury, wiretap or fair credit information.
“In reaching these conclusions, our Office’s role has not been to decide what access [inspectors general] should receive as a matter of policy. Rather, we have endeavored to determine as a matter of law, using established tools of statutory construction, how best to reconcile the strong privacy protections … with the interest in access reflected in … the IG Act,” states the legal counsel’s opinion, which was dated Monday and released Thursday.
“I strongly disagree with the OLC opinion,” Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, said in a statement. “Congress meant what it said when it authorized Inspectors General to independently access ‘all’ documents necessary to conduct effective oversight. 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.” (read more)