One again, we find one of those curious administration legal opinions that appears to protect the bad guys in government and give them warning when they fall under scrutiny …
MEMORANDUM OPINION FOR THE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
You have asked whether the Department of Justice (the “Department”) may
In particular, you have asked whether the Department may grant OIG access, in connection with OIG audits, investigations, and reviews, to information protected by the Federal Wiretap Act, Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, as amended, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510–2522 (“Title III”); Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (“Rule 6(e)”); and section 626 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681u (“FCRA”).
Subject to certain exceptions, each of these statutes restricts the disclosure of particular categories of information: Title III limits the Department’s authority to disclose the contents of intercepted communications; Rule 6(e) limits the Department’s authority to disclose grand jury materials; and section 626 of FCRA limits the authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) to disclose consumer information obtained pursuant to National Security Letters issued under section 626.
At the same time, however, section 6(a)(1) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, 5 U.S.C. app. (the “IG Act”), authorizes OIG “to have access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other material” available to the Department and relevant to the programs and operations OIG is charged with reviewing. 5 U.S.C. app. § 6(a)(1).
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that Title III, Rule 6(e), and section 626 permit the Department to disclose certain statutorily protected information to OIG in certain circumstances.
We further conclude that to the extent those statutes prohibit disclosure of such information, neither the IG Act nor section 218 permits the Department to disclose it.
KARL R. THOMPSON, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
So what does it all mean?
Obama administration restricts investigative powers of inspectors general
The Obama administration formally announced inspectors general will have to be granted permission by their agency heads to gain access to grand jury, wiretap and fair credit information – an action that severely limits the watchdogs oversight capabilities, independence, and ability to uncover fraud.
An opinion, issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, restricts the inspector general’s “ability to independently access all records in the Justice Department’s possession that are necessary for our audits, reviews, and investigations, and is contrary to the principles and express language set forth in the Inspector General Act,” according to a statement issued by the department’s inspector general Thursday.
Michael Horowitz, the inspector general at the Justice Department, has had to seek former Attorney General Eric Holder’s permission, and now Loretta Lynch’s, to gain access to grand jury, wiretap and fair credit reporting material. The approval process in obtaining the materials delayed review of Operation Fast and Furious — the failed sting that lost track of more than 1,000 government-issued guns, one of which later was used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent — and has delayed other reports the inspector general is set to publish.
At no point has the Justice Department denied any of Mr. Horowitz’s requests, but some in Congress have argued that requiring the inspector general to ask the attorney general for materials represents a direct conflict of interest and impairs the inspector general’s independence.
“I strongly disagree with the OLC opinion,” said Mr. Horowitz in the statement. “Congress meant what it said when it authorized Inspectors General to independently access ‘all’ documents necessary to conduct effective oversight. Without such access, our Office’s ability to conduct its work will be significantly impaired, and it will be more difficult for us to detect and deter waste, fraud, and abuse, and to protect taxpayer dollars. We look forward to working with the Congress and the Justice Department to promptly remedy this serious situation.”
Bottom line …
The easiest way to stonewall investigations into government corruption is to use government lawyers to delay, dissemble, and when necessary lie to Congress and the Courts by inserting caveats in all of their statements.
Government attorneys often have the wrong perspective; that they are hired to be advocates for their political patrons rather than the people of the United States who pay their salaries.
And, Congress is not much better as many of the “professional politicians” often have law degrees. Perhaps that’s why they have no qualms about switching sides for thirty pieces of silver?
We are so screwed.
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius