The need for oversight in government agencies seems to be a no-brainer. Those who have been given broad sweeping access to power and money need to be kept in check. With these checks in place, many things have gone astray, but without them, there is no telling what would happen. It seems that it is normal that one would want to be held accountable, unless criminal activities were intended. We are now learning that the Obama Administration has limited the ability of the inspector generals.
The Washington Time reports:
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.
This means that if the inspector general for the Justice Department wishes to investigate and receive all relevant information about the operation of the DOJ, then the people they are investigating will have to grant them permission. These people could be stalled and shut down by those in power if they could be linked to criminal activity through the information the Inspector General is seeking to obtain.
The Times continues:
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.
So then, an administration that has argued that national security is more important than the private individual expectation of a private phone call, now is arguing that those who are in public office have an expectation to have their credit and banking records kept away from those who would ensure that they were not taking bribes? Seriously?
The Times reports:
"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."
If we are not giving the Inspector Generals the power and access needed to serve as watchdogs over government corruption and waste, then why are they there? What good does it do to give an inspector a title but not the ability to inspect? We do not need someone with a title to make us feel better; we need people to ensure that we are not being cheated and lied to by those appointed to government jobs.
And though there is no doubt that this needs to be rectified, there seems little that the Legislative Branch is willing to do except make more laws for them to ignore or break.
"The House Judiciary Committee will work with other committees of jurisdiction to explore a legislative fix to reiterate Congress' intent that the Office of the Inspector General is entitled access to all documents and records within DOJ's possession," he said.