What Is the FBI Hiding from Federal Investigators?
Policy + Politics

What Is the FBI Hiding from Federal Investigators?

Like other government inspector generals, this complaint from the Department of Justice begs the question: is there a coverup?

Government watchdogs responsible for ferretting out wrongdoing within the federal government are increasingly coming forward with stories accusing their respective departments of intentionally blocking their investigations.

The latest complaint comes from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who told lawmakers this week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has routinely delayed or obstructed auditors from getting access to documents and records—like grand jury materials, wiretap and credit information-- they needed to complete their agency probes.

Related: EPA Watchdog Says Agency Obstructs Its Investigations

“In two on-going audits, we have even had trouble getting Department of Justice organizational charts in a timely manner,” Horowitz said in congressional testimony.

The FBI, for its part, disagreed and told lawmakers at a congressional hearing Tuesday that it works closely with the inspector general.

The watchdog’s complaint comes amid similar allegations by other inspectors general claiming officials at their respective agencies have also impeded their investigations.

This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general testified before Congress accusing agency officials of obstructing the investigation into the high profile fraudulent case of John Beale—who was convicted of swindling nearly $1 million out of the federal government last fall.

Related: Federal Watchdogs Cite Obstruction by Administration

“Our investigation of Mr. Beale was delayed several months (and otherwise negatively impacted) due to the fact that the EPA’s Office of General Counsel and its Office of Homeland Security did not immediately notify the OIG of Mr. Beale’s misconduct,” said Patrick Sullivan, assistant inspector general for investigations told lawmakers.

Just last month, a group of 47 IGs sent a letter to lawmakers detailing examples where their investigations had been blocked. They suggested, in the letter, that Congress might need to intervene in order to ensure compliance with their investigations.

“Refusing, restricting, or delaying an Inspector General’s access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance,” the IGs wrote.

Related: Federal Government Pays Workers $5 Million to Not Work

In response to the numerous allegations of agency obstruction, the House and Senate oversight committees sent a note to the Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan to raise concern over the issue.

“We write to express our grave concern about difficulties that certain Inspectors General have encountered in trying to obtain documents from their respective agencies,” the lawmakers wrote. Timely and complete access to information is essential if Inspectors General are to perform their missions.

It is unclear what, if anything, lawmakers or the OMB will do to hold agency officials more accountable to their auditors.

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