‘Transparent’ Obama Administration Blocks Inspectors General From Conducting Investigations

obama in the oval office

More than half of the Federal government’s 78 inspectors general (IGs)complained to Congress last week that the Administration of President Barack Obama habitually obstructs their lawful mission to conduct investigations into government waste and corruption.

The letter, submitted to the ranking members of the House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees by 47 of the 73 Federal IGs, never mentions Obama by name, instead citing numerous examples of stonewalling from agencies whose policies are guided by the Obama Administration — including the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

From the letter:

We have learned that the Inspectors General for the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency (in his role as Inspector General for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board) and the Department of Justice have recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas. In each of these instances, we understand that lawyers in these agencies construed other statutes and law applicable to privilege in a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act. These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.

Congress passed the IG Act in 1978, expanding the powers of IGs in a 2008 reform measure. IG offices have law enforcement powers similar to those enjoyed by the FBI; many IG officers are armed as they go about their duties. IG offices have subpoena power independent of the Department of Justice and have broad powers of surveillance over  government employees and contractors.

Even though a number of IG positions are Presidential political appointments, under Obama there has nevertheless been significant backlash from IG offices for stonewalling — a puzzling phenomenon that belies the Obama Administration’s oft-repeated boast of offering a precedent-setting degree of transparency.

“It’s not as if the IGs are a clique of obsessive, conservative Inspector Javerts,” observes National Review’s John Fund. “President Obama appointed most of the IGs in office today, and all those who were appointed by him have been confirmed by a Democratic Senate… That makes the complaints raised in the IGs’ letter all the more serious. More and more agencies are setting documents off-limits by declaring them “‘privileged.’”

Yet the Obama Administration continues to just say whatever sounds good, regardless of the crescendo of voices pointing out the obvious contradiction between wishful fiction and fact. Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Monday letter to the Society of Professional Journalists, in response to SPJ’s recent transparency complaint against the Administration, is insistent that Obama’s transparency is real and magnanimous. 

“Simply put, we’ve backed up — with action — the President’s ambitious, early and ongoing commitment to transparency,” wrote Earnest:

The President’s commitment to transparency and the crucial role of the independent press is unwavering. The President has set an historically high standard of transparency that is part of the legacy to which future presidents will aspire and the President and his Administration are justifiably proud of these accomplishments.

How did SPJ president David Cuillier receive that? 

“Typical spin and response through non-response.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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