The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee accused the FBI on Monday of not cooperating with the Department of Justice’s top watchdog in the investigation of the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, among others, endangering Congress’s ability to be a check on the administration’s actions.
“One of the tools we have created to help the government identify and correct its mistakes is being obstructed. I refer to the vital work of Inspectors General,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “We must stay vigilant and insist that all government agencies, including the FBI, work with Inspectors General — not against them.”
In investigating the Fast and the Furious case, the Justice Department’s IG was told by the FBI that grand jury testimony could not be shared with the Inspector General. According to Mr. Grassley, the FBI claimed it had the right to refuse to provide the IG information in over a dozen other categories as well.
“Remember – the law says the Inspector General shall have access to all records, documents and other materials they deem necessary to conduct their investigations,” said Mr. Grassley, “And yet the FBI says its attorneys will review material first and decide what it would and would not release to the Inspector General.”
The FBI claimed the inspector general needed to get approval from the attorney general or the deputy attorney general to provide information to the Inspector General, an action Mr. Grassley called “exactly upside down!”
“Under the law, an inspector general must be independent. Agencies cannot be trusted to investigate themselves,” said Mr. Grassley. “If an inspector general had to ask for permission from senior leadership, he would not be truly independent.”
Other agencies who have avoided inspector general inquires through legal loopholes are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps, Mr. Grassley said. Last year, a group of 47 inspector generals wrote a letter to Congress warning of these problems across the government.