WASHINGTON – House and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. and Chuck Grassley are raising questions about a new practice by the Justice Department denying certain records to the department’s Inspector General.
During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in September, the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, raised concerns about the FBI’s refusal to provide certain documents, such as grand jury records and material witness warrant information. The Inspector General sought these records to determine whether the Department had violated the civil liberties and civil rights of individuals detained in national security investigations following . In addition, the Inspector General also sought records as part of the review of Operation Fast and Furious. The Department’s refusal to provide records immediately as required by law wastes months in bureaucratic roadblocks and frustrates the independent oversight Congress created Inspectors General to provide. Prior to 2010, the FBI and other agencies in the Justice Department routinely provided similar information to the Inspector General’s office.
Conyers and Grassley, who both voted for the original Inspector General Act, wrote in a letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Karl Thompson, “In order to carry out audits and investigations with the independence mandated by the (Inspector General) Act, Inspectors General must have unfettered access to records of the Departments they oversee.”
Conyers and Grassley acknowledged that an Inspector General inquiry can be prevented under the law in certain limited circumstances, but they emphasized in their letter that the Attorney General is required to explain in writing to both the Inspector General and Congress why the Inspector General’s work should be impeded despite the Inspector General Act’s guarantee of access to all agency records.
“The current practice is the opposite of the procedure dictated by the statute and unnecessarily delays the work of the Inspector General. More importantly, it circumvents the oversight authority with regard to such disputes, which Congress explicitly reserved for itself through the reporting requirement,” Conyers and Grassley wrote.