DOJ Inspector General Says FBI Actively Preventing Him From Doing His Job
from the no-accountability dept
Rogue agency? The FBI seems to fit the description:
The Justice Department’s inspector general said Tuesday that his staff is routinely blocked from getting access to documents it needs for audits and reviews of the department and its law enforcement agencies…
In the last few years, the FBI has denied access to records that should be provided under federal law, including grand jury materials, an organizational chart and electronic surveillance information, [Inspector General Michael] Horowitz testified.
Yeah. Not even an organizational chart. The FBI, which can’t seem to decide whether it likes law enforcement or counterterrorism better, won’t even hand over that info. It’s incredibly hard to investigate an agency that stonewalls its superiors with as much fervor as it does FOIA requesters.
As it stands now, the FBI routes the Inspector General through its legal counsel. Then a whole lot of nothing happens until the Attorney General’s office gets involved and demands the release of information. This stonewalling goes on for years.
He said the refusal to grant routine requests stalls investigations, including a recent one on FBI material witnesses, such that officials who are under review have sometimes retired or left the agencies before the report is complete.
It’s another one-way street of information by a government agency. FOIA requesters and the DOJ’s Inspector General get nothing. The FBI gets everything it demands, via subpoenas, FISA court orders and National Security Letters. In addition, the FBI actively interjects itself into state-level FOI requests, ordering local law enforcement agencies to withhold information on cell tower spoofers and other “sensitive” equipment — even going so far as to help them with parallel construction.
There’s nothing defensible here. The Inspector General should be able to see whatever it asks for. Anything deemed sensitive can be redacted from the eventual report. But handling requests for information the way the FBI does insulates it from accountability — an essential element of its “bargain” with the public. Everything it has — from its power to its budget — derives from the people. And in return, the people are getting nothing back, even those at the supposed top of the accountability chain.
The Attorney General needs to rein the agency in, rather than intercede only when asked to by the OIG. There’s obviously a problem here but it appears those with the actual power to fix it are simply letting the agency slide. The FBI — especially in its new counterterrorism capacity — has too much power to be allowed this much leeway.