And it truly IS unprecedented. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says “there has never been a letter even with a dozen IGs complaining” about such obstruction by an administration. The fact that the Justice Department’s IG, Michael Horowitz, also signed on is particularly revealing. After all, it is the duty of senior executive officers like Eric Holder to advise subordinate officials that they are obligated to cooperate with the IGs of their agencies.
On Aug. 5, 47 of the federal government’s 73 inspectors general, many of whom were appointed by President Obama, sent their letter to Issa, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), and the ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees — essentially pleading with Congress to help the IGs do their jobs uncovering waste, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption within their respective agencies.
In the letter, the IGs complain about the “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. Administration lawyers have construed laws related to privilege in “a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act” and seriously impede the “ability [of the IGs] to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”
According to the letter, the Justice Department withheld “essential records” in three different reviews, despite the fact that such records had been produced for the DOJ IG “in many prior reviews without objection.” Michael Horowitz eventually got access to the files, it seems, but not because Department officials realized they were misinterpreting the IG law in withholding access. No, Horowitz got the records only after DOJ leadership decided that “the three reviews were of assistance to the Department of Justice’s leadership.”
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