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Now Would Be a Good Time to Restore Statutory Authority of DOJ’s Inspector General

Judd Legum reports that the FBI’s Inspection Division is launching an investigation into why its FBI Records Vault Twitter bot launched into action the other day, resulting in the re-release of FOIAed files on Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich.

Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility will be referred back to the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”

Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.

Will was responding to a complaint from Jonathan Hutson, a former investigative reporter who now works in communication in Washington, DC. She did not respond to requests, via phone and email, for further comment.

I’m happy the FBI is conducting this investigation, but this story is the inevitable result of the FBI responding appropriately to a complaint submitted by a media consultant, not any indication anyone at the FBI takes its own misconduct seriously.

Plus, the Inspection Division and the Office of Professional Responsibility don’t have statutory independence from the rest of the FBI, which means their investigation (and particularly OPR’s adjudication) can be influenced by FBI executives.

The entity that should be conducting an investigation into the FBI’s misconduct relating to this election is the Inspector General, which does have the independence to really assess who, if anyone screwed up.

There’s just one problem with that. As I’ve long covered, in 2010, the FBI started balking at the Inspector General’s proper investigative demands. Among other things, the FBI refused to provide information on grand jury investigations unless some top official in FBI said that it would help the FBI if the IG obtained it. In addition, the FBI (and DEA) have responded to requests very selectively, pulling investigations they don’t want to be reviewed. In 2014, the IG asked OLC for a memo on whether it should be able to get the information it needs to do its job. Last year, OLC basically responded, Nope, can’t have the stuff you need to exercise proper oversight of the FBI.

DOJ’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, has been trying for some time to get Congress to affirmatively authorize his office (and IGs generally, because the problem exists at other agencies) to receive the information he needs to do his job. But thus far — probably because Jim Comey used to be known as the world’s biggest Boy Scout — Congress has failed to do so.

I care about how FBI’s misconduct affects the election (thus far, polling suggests it hasn’t done so, though polls are getting closer as Republican Gary Johnson supporters move back to supporting the GOP nominee, as almost always happens with third party candidates). But I care even more about how fucked up the FBI is. Even if Comey is ousted, I can’t think of a likely candidate that could actually fix the problems at FBI. One of the few entities that I think might be able to do something about the stench at FBI is the IG.

Except the FBI has spent 6 years making sure the IG can’t fully review its conduct.

It’s time to fix that.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. Denis says:

    In reading this post I am reminded about how Obama campaigned in 2008 on “no more business as usual in Washington.”  Of course, he declined to use that mantra in 2012 and didn’t even make at attempt to argue he had made good on his promise.

    Now we’ve had 8 years of him and how much about business in Washington has changed? This post pretty much answers that question.

    The country will be a long time digging itself out of the morass it has sunk deeper into during Obama’s tenure. Yisrael is still doing OK with it’s $3.1bn/yr. Boeing is doing wonderful, as is General Dynamics and Halliburton. The F-35 still can’t get off the ground long enough to retract its landing-gear, but Lockheed-Martin is demanding half-a-billion more. The banks have been bailed out, propped up, and are once again dealing in derivatives w/ mom and pop’s FDIC guaranteed money because Bilton killed Glass-Steagall and then started raking in mega-bucks from Citigroup and Goldman.

    Sounds like the same ole’ same ole’ to me suggesting that in 2008 the country was duped by a jive-talkin’ Chicago huckster who played liburls and blacks for suckers.

    But at least this one thing is not business as usual:  The (just barely) leading contender for the WH is widely known to have slept with at least one previous sitting president, the first time in the country’s history that has ever happened. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the foreseeable future.

    Sometimes it seems that the IGs and a few USDC judges and renegade bureaucrats are the only thing keeping the government from devolving into a complete Stasi police state. Good on Comey.

    • rugger9 says:

      Well, what did you expect with a deliberately obstructionist Congress (McConnell and the “one term president” statement the day of the inauguration) with a Senate filibuster?  Instead of blaming Obama and HRC, dig out your civics notes to remind you which party has obstructed everything (and is now threatening to not confirm any HRC SCOTUS appointee after the people have spoken).

      As corrupt as you think HRC is Donald is far worse and that has been documented in the 3500 or so legal actions, stiffed vendors (like the Freedom girls and his pollster among many others), mob ties (another tape this week) and his  business stupidity (Trump Toronto went belly-up today with RUSSIAN money tied into it, I think they’ll want something for their loss).  However, despite never-ending Clinton Derangement Syndrome investigations and ahem, convenient, FBI leaks nothing sticks to HRC.  It’s because there is nothing there.

       

      Perhaps you can tell us why Trump is worth electing instead of why not HRC.

  2. Jonathan Hutson says:

    Great post. I concur. For the record, I’m the media consultant who filed the complaints. And before I filed a complaint with the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, I first filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. However, I have not yet heard back from them.

    • martin says:

      Jonathan Hutson “For the record, I’m the media consultant who filed the complaints.”

       

      Holy moly. Notwithstanding people posting here with actual connections to issues at hand, nice to see them not afraid to post their real names. Kudos to you. Ditto bemaz too.

  3. bmaz says:

    Interesting, and welcome to Emptywheel! OIG moves rather slow generally, so no surprise there.

    Please keep us informed of your progress.

  4. Evangelista says:

    A re-release of matter already released is not a significant error.  It is only the timing, and the media focus and hubbub, that make the Rich pardon re-release of any significance at all.  That significance is, effectively, in itself, only invoking mention of Bill Clinton’s name in media.  The pardon investigation, not returning any call for action then, became only a record in FBI investigative actions history.  About all the re-release rates, in dawn-light reality, is an ‘oops’.

    [My suspicion, since there is nothing in the FOIA relevant in 2016, is that someone wanting to review the FOIA’d documents invoked the wrong code, maybe an ‘R’ instead of an ‘r’, inducing a ‘Release’ call-up, instead of a ‘review’ call-up.]

    • martin says:

      [My suspicion, since there is nothing in the FOIA relevant in 2016, is that someone wanting to review the FOIA’d documents invoked the wrong code, maybe an ‘R’ instead of an ‘r’, inducing a ‘Release’ call-up, instead of a ‘review’ call-up.]

      Interesting.  Thanks evangelista.

       

  5. jdmckay says:

    Thanks for addressing this, I haven’t seen this done anywhere else.

    2 comments;

    1) We’ve filed many (in the 100’s) FOIA’s: response is supposed to be delivered to the requester.  This one released publicly, with (AFAIK) no mention who filed the damn FOIA.  Whereas Comey had some legitimate deniability in statement wrt reopening Clinton email embroglio, this one stunk of election meddling through & throug.

    2) Does IG in any agency have any teeth (unless some lawmaker wants to make something political)?  Similar to above we’ve requested IG reports (one example: http://www.radfreenm.org/images/PDF/MWL/IG_Report_2010.pdf) that was scathing… and roundly ignored.  Literally of no affect.

  6. Ben says:

    We might need IG as a ‘Designated Survivor’ if a contested election goes to court.

     

    Imagine a 4/4 SCOTUS then duck and cover.

Comments are closed.