The Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) reported to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Monday that the FBI and the DEA (both part of the Department of Justice) broke the law by not cooperating with its investigation.
Congress passed a law last year seeking to address the ongoing problems the OIG has experienced in its oversight of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the last several years. The law prohibits the Justice Department from using “appropriated funds to deny, prevent, or impede the OIG’s timely access to records, documents, and other materials in the Department’s possession.”
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Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the Oversight Committee on Monday that DOJ agencies actively impeded his office’s investigation into sexual misconduct by agents operating overseas. The OIG released a report last month finding that government agents engaged in “sex parties” thrown by drug cartels in Catagena, Colombia. The conduct went on for several years involving agents with top secret clearance, potentially opening those agents up to blackmail by the drug lords.
Horowitz told the committee, despite the severity of the matter, that the FBI and DEA hampered the OIG’s investigation by withholding requested information (despite multiple requests) or only turning over information after the inspectors found discrepancies or gaps in the materials. The inspector added, based on this ongoing conduct, that he could not be confident the OIG has all the relevant information needed to make recommendations on how to address these problems going forward. He said regarding the DEA:
We also determined that the DEA initially withheld from us relevant information regarding an open case involving overseas prostitution. During a round of initial interviews, only one interviewee provided us information on this case. We later learned that several interviewees were directly involved in the [internal] investigation and adjudication of this matter, and in follow-up interviews they each told us that they were given the impression by the DEA that they were not to talk to the OIG about this case while the case was still open.
The OIG reported that this is a common pattern with the DOJ, which his office has seen in investigations including such high profile instances as Fast and Furious, the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the FBI’s use of National Security Letters. These letters require companies to turn over information about their customers to the federal government.
In response to Horowitz’s allegations, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told the committee: “It is against DEA’s best interests to obfuscate personnel issues, and I can assure you there was no effort to do so in this case nor would I tolerate any effort to do so.” She also testified that she could not fire the agents involved with sexual misconduct and only adopt better guidelines for the future, due to discipline procedures established at the agency.
Her response caused Rep. Trey Gowdy. R-S.C., to erupt: “Honestly — what power do you have? You have to work with agents over whom you can’t discipline and have no control; and you have no control over the security clearance. What the hell do you get to do?!”
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After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive “good old boy” culture that exists throughout the agency. From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position . Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.
Horowitz summed up his frustration investigating the DEA and other DOJ agencies by saying: “The American public deserves and expects an OIG that is able to conduct rigorous oversight of the Department’s activities. Unfortunately, our ability to conduct that oversight is being undercut every day that goes by without a resolution of this dispute.”