In a scathing letter released this morning, forty-seven inspectors general hammered the Obama administration, specifically singling out several bureaucratic agencies that have been less than forthcoming in ongoing investigations. The letter, addressed to several congressmen—including Darrell Issa, House Republicans’ chief watchdog as the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform—sums up what many were already thinking: the administration is stalling.
The letter, which can be found in full here at the Washington Examiner, begins:
The undersigned federal Inspectors General write regarding the serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work of Inspectors General at the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice.
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. In each of these instances, we understand that lawyers in these agencies construed other statutes and law applicable to privilege in a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act. 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.
The Examiner article specifically details out the handling of IG access in the Department of Justice, which it argues violates the law, and calls for the return of independent prosecutors:
The experience of Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz is especially outrageous. In a Senate hearing in April, Horowitz said his office must go through Attorney General Eric Holder to gain access to DOJ documents and officials. Giving Holder the power to veto an IG’s access in that manner egregiously violates the 1978 law and other statutes. Obstruction like Holder’s risks “leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct — the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address,” the IGs said in their letter to Congress.