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The e-mails did not show political appointees stopping records from coming out, but they did show acute political sensitivities that slowed the process.

Career employees were ordered to provide political staff with information about the people who asked for records — such as where they lived and whether they were private citizens or reporters — and about the organizations where they worked. If a member of Congress sought documents, employees were told to specify Democrat or Republican.

The AP reported that the inspector general’s office had conducted interviews to determine whether political advisers acted improperly, but its findings have not been made public nearly one year after Ms. Papoi’s complaints.

“I knew full well I could be jeopardizing my career, but I have to be able to sleep at night,” Ms. Papoi told the AP in an interview.

Mr. Peacock, the assistant secretary, said the agency was not aware until Mr. Issa‘s disclosure that Ms. Papoi was the one who had complained about her bosses to the inspector general in March 2010. Ms. Papoi accused political appointees of “breaking the law by knowingly and intentionally delaying and obstructing the release of agency records” under the Freedom of Information Act.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said, “It would seem obvious that the political vetting process at the Department of Homeland Security that was uncovered by AP violates both the president’s and the attorney general’s orders.”

Mr. Grassley said he has asked inspectors general at dozens of executive branch agencies to investigate whether other parts of the administration are conducting similar political reviews of federal information requests.

A senior Justice Department official in charge of Mr. Obama’s openness policy, Melanie Pustay, told senators on Tuesday that “if the statements in the (AP) article are true, it would be very serious, and we would have very serious concerns with that.”

She said Justice Department rules make clear that the identity of the person requesting records shouldn’t affect whether the government provides information. She acknowledged that political appointees in the Justice Department are told about information requests “for awareness and management purposes, and that’s all.”

Mr. Issa said administration lawyers also believe Ms. Papoi has been secretly providing information to congressional investigators, who interviewed Ms. Papoi with her private lawyer on March 3.

In the interview, Ms. Papoi criticized political appointees in Ms. Napolitano’s office.

The department said Ms. Papoi was notified about her new boss’s hiring on Jan. 10, the same week in which Mr. Issa has acknowledged his investigators began obtaining materials that raised new questions about the agency’s political reviews.

Mr. Peacock said the department lawyer “merely pointed out the chronology … regarding the hiring process and the investigation.”

Mr. Issa said Ms. Papoi was told on March 4, the day after meeting with investigators, that Ms. Barber would begin as her new boss on Monday this week and that she needed to vacate her office before March 10.

“By notifying Ms. Papoi of her less desirable office assignment and diminished job responsibilities the day after she appeared before the committee, the department created the appearance of retaliation against a witness,” Mr. Issa wrote. “The department’s decision to marginalize the FOIA Office’s most senior career official after two years of record performance is hard to countenance.”

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