from the Fight-Block-Impede dept
The FBI is still actively thwarting its oversight. Last fall, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz informed the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI was routinely denying his office documents it needed to perform investigations. The withheld documents included everything from electronic surveillance information to organizational charts. Not only did the FBI refuse to hand over requested documents, but it also stonewalled OIG investigations for so long that "officials under review [had] retired or left the agencies before the report [was] complete."
Nearly six months later, the situation remains unchanged. Horowitz is again informing the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI is still less than interested in assisting his office. The same stonewalling tactics and withholding of information continues, preventing the IG from fully examining the DEA's use of administrative subpoenas.
The unfulfilled information request that causes the OIG to make this report was sent to the FBI on November 20,2014. Since that time, the FBI has made a partial production in this matter, and there have been multiple discussions between the OIG and the FBI about this request, resulting in the OIG setting a final deadline for production of all material of February 13,2015.Both words in the phrase "final deadline" were quickly rendered meaningless by the FBI.
On February 12, 2015, the FBI informed the OIG that it would not be able to produce the remaining records by the deadline.The FBI's fluid definition of "final deadline" apparently includes a shrugged "We don't really know when -- or if -- these documents will be produced."
The FBI gave an estimate of 1-2 weeks to complete the production but did not commit to do so by a date certain.The FBI claims it still needs to review the requested document list to ensure nothing that's being asked for falls into its multitudinous exceptions -- like information related to grand juries, Title III electronic surveillance and, oddly, the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Horowitz's letter points out two things, the latter of which may prompt more immediate action than the first.
In the first place, the exceptions raised by the FBI do not apply to OIG investigations. Secondly, the (apparently continual) stonewalling of OIG investigations is, at best, a misuse of taxpayer funds.
Section 218 of the Appropriations Act does not permit the use of funds appropriated to the Department of Justice to deny the OIG access to records in the custody of the Department unless in accordance with an express limitation of Section 6(a) of the IG Act. The IG Act, Section 6(a), does not expressly or otherwise limit the OIG's access to the categories of information the FBI maintains it must review before providing records to the OIG. For this reason, we are reporting this matter to the Appropriations Committees in conformity with Section 218.We'll see if the the FBI suddenly becomes a bit more helpful now that Horowitz has made a move for its wallet. But once again, this sort of activity completely undermines the arguments of those defending these agencies by pointing to the "rigorous oversight" supposedly keeping domestic surveillance in check and abuses of power to a minimum.