Inspector General Seemed Like Such A Cool Idea

The first time I met Mike Horowitz was at Harry’s in the Woolworth Building.  It happened just before the Dirty Thirty scandal broke, where we sat down with prosecutors from the New York County District Attorney’s official corruption unit, my client and Horowitz, who would be handling the prosecution.

He wasn’t a warm and friendly guy.  I had been working with the DANY guys for a while, and we had become friendly and I gained a great respect for their integrity.  Horowitz was very official, which wasn’t unusual for a SDNY guy, and didn’t crack a smile at the jokes. He seemed like the kind of guy who slept in his suit.

At the end of the lunch, after each of us paid on separate checks, he handed my client a subpoena to testify.  This was a bush move, as my client was there voluntarily, had cooperated fully and Horowitz didn’t forewarn me that he would issue a subpoena so I could forewarn my client. It wasn’t a big deal, as my client intended to testify regardless, but just needlessly offensive. And official.  Yes, Horowitz was very official.

Michael Horowitz is now the Inspector General of the United States Department of Justice. It’s a big job.  Or at least it’s supposed to be.  Via Tim Cushing at Techdirt:

Rogue agency? The FBI seems to fit the description:

The Justice Department’s inspector general said Tuesday that his staff is routinely blocked from getting access to documents it needs for audits and reviews of the department and its law enforcement agencies…

In the last few years, the FBI has denied access to records that should be provided under federal law, including grand jury materials, an organizational chart and electronic surveillance information, [Inspector General Michael] Horowitz testified.

Yeah. Not even an organizational chart. The FBI, which can’t seem to decide whether it likes law enforcement or counterterrorism better, won’t even hand over that info. It’s incredibly hard to investigate an agency that stonewalls its superiors with as much fervor as it does FOIA requesters.

There wasn’t always such a thing as an inspector general.  The post was created as a reform, its mission to protect the integrity of government functions:

Within the federal agencies are politically independent individuals called Inspectors General who are responsible for ensuring that the agencies operate efficiently, effectively and legally.

Established by the Inspector General Act of 1978, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) examines all actions of a government agency or military organization. Conducting audits and investigations, either independently or in response to reports of wrongdoing, the OIG ensures that the agency’s operations are in compliance with the law and general established policies of the government.

And how do they perform their duties?

To help them carry out their investigative role, Inspector Generals have the authority to issue subpoenas for information and documents, administer oaths for taking testimony, and can hire and control their own staff and contract personnel. The investigative authority of Inspectors General is limited only by certain national security and law enforcement considerations.

And what becomes of inspectors general audits?

The Inspectors General also send semiannual reports of all their activities for the past six months to Congress.

All cases involving suspected violations of federal laws are reported to the Department of Justice, via the Attorney General.

Therein lies the problem.  Who watches the watchers who watch the watchers, etc.  So if the FBI tell the officious General Horowitz to suck a big bag of dicks, he’s got nowhere to turn.  You see, the DoJ kinda like the FBI. They kinda rely on the FBI to do its bidding. They need the FBI, and so the Attorney General isn’t exactly inclined to beat the crap out of the FBI for not playing nice with Horowitz.

It’s another one-way street of information by a government agency. FOIA requesters and the DOJ’s Inspector General get nothing. The FBI gets everything it demands, via subpoenas, FISA court orders and National Security Letters. In addition, the FBI actively interjects itself into state-level FOI requests, ordering local law enforcement agencies to withhold information on cell tower spoofers and other “sensitive” equipment — even going so far as to help them with parallel construction.

The list of potentially bad stuff the FBI is up to is long. Sure, parallel construction is a bad one, but in the scheme of bad things law enforcement can do, from perjury to violation of constitutional rights, it’s unclear where it falls on the list.  Then again, one might well argue that it’s not necessary to rank impropriety and unlawful conduct, since it really shouldn’t be happening at all.

And that’s where the fact that Mike Horowitz is such an unpleasant fellow to have as a lunch partner comes into play.  No, I wouldn’t put Horowitz on speed dial if I was looking for a guy to hang out with and have a beer at Forlini’s after work.  But you know, if I had to pick a guy who was absolutely honest and legit in his investigation and audit of governmental functions, a guy who didn’t mind being unpleasant and, well, annoyingly official, it would be Mike.

So if Mike says the FBI is screwing with his ability to perform his function as Inspector General, I believe him. And if Mike says this is a problem, I believe him. And if Mike is frustrated by the way law enforcement is able to stymie his ability to investigate its malfeasance and violation of constitutional rights, I believe him.

Maybe Mike Horowitz isn’t a fun guy for lunch, but he’s an excellent choice for Inspector General.  And if Mike Horowitz can’t force the FBI to play clean and fair, and if Eric Holder isn’t willing to compel a law enforcement agency under his control to comply with the law, then we have a very serious problem.

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