The integrity of public functions isn’t exactly a cause easily dismissed. After all, who out there wants to openly champion the idea that the government need have no integrity, because it’s got the guns and, well, you don’t. What you gonna do about it?
So how pissed off must Mike Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, have been when the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him to go suck eggs? Pissed off enough to go public. Airing dirty laundry is not something the DoJ or the FBI wants to do. It conflicts with their desire to give themselves awards for their bravery and service.
When Horowitz went public with the FBI’s intransigence last fall, one might have thought that would be sufficient to get a little cooperation. After all, Mike wasn’t some nasty outsider to the cause, the kind of IG to go looking for problems under every rock. Mike has been in the fold forever, and while he’s the sort of guy who will do his job, he won’t see his job as manufacturing problems where none exist.
He gave the FBI almost six months, until February 13th, to clean up its act, provide him with the information he needed to conduct his IG audit, and prove to the world that Hoover’s legacy wasn’t dirty. As Tim Cushing explains, the FBI’s reply was less than compliant.
Nearly six months later, the situation remains unchanged. Horowitz is again informing the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI is still less than interested in assisting his office. The same stonewalling tactics and withholding of information continues, preventing the IG from fully examining the DEA’s use of administrative subpoenas.
The unfulfilled information request that causes the OIG to make this report was sent to the FBI on November 20,2014. Since that time, the FBI has made a partial production in this matter, and there have been multiple discussions between the OIG and the FBI about this request, resulting in the OIG setting a final deadline for production of all material of February 13, 2015.
Both words in the phrase “final deadline” were quickly rendered meaningless by the FBI.
Wrapped up in this reply is both the concept that the FBI is answerable to no one, based upon its stonewalling Horowitz’s requests, and that the Department of Justice, under which it exists, has lost control.
When viewed in conjunction with the various issues arising in the context of legal proceedings, from parallel construction to administrative subpoenas to whatever role it plays in the Stingray denial, the significance of the FBI’s telling Mike Horowitz to suck a big old bag of dicks becomes clear. The agency no longer demonstrates sufficient respect for courts to tell them the truth, all for what they believe to be a perfectly adequate governmental purpose, but false nonetheless.
That federal judges don’t feel just a wee bit hurt by the fact that the FBI doesn’t trust them enough to let them in on their little secrets is surprising. After all, most judges are pretty accommodating to the agency, believing that they are well-intended and acting in a way that serves the interests of the nation. Aren’t the judges doing the same? Doesn’t the FBI believe that they have friends on the bench? Friends don’t keep secrets from friends.
Perhaps federal judges realize they’re part of the least dangerous branch, lacking the army needed to enforce their will without the cooperation of executive agencies like the FBI. Better to maintain the façade of camaraderie than to call them names for being intransigent.
But the Department of Justice’s Inspector General isn’t part of the least dangerous branch, and should, if the position has any purpose at all, be as entitled to call out the SWAT team as anyone else. As it turns out, that’s not the case, leaving Mike to go after the only thing more deadly than guns to a government agency: money.
Section 218 of the Appropriations Act does not permit the use of funds appropriated to the Department of Justice to deny the OIG access to records in the custody of the Department unless in accordance with an express limitation of Section 6(a) of the IG Act. The IG Act, Section 6(a), does not expressly or otherwise limit the OIG’s access to the categories of information the FBI maintains it must review before providing records to the OIG. For this reason, we are reporting this matter to the Appropriations Committees in conformity with Section 218.
There isn’t much question that Horowitz is right about the FBI’s use of funds for the purpose of thwarting his oversight, or the OIG’s duty to provide oversight. There is a huge question, however, of whether anybody has the guts to take on the FBI. There is no indication that the Attorney General did, or if Holder called up Jim Comey and said, “Jim, stop screwing around with Horowitz and give him what he wants,” Comey didn’t respond with, “Who’s gonna make me, Eric? You and what army?”
Internal conflicts like this rarely go public, though everybody in Washington likes to spout words like transparency when election time rolls around. That Horowitz was left with no choice, after not once, but twice, being treated like garbage by the FBI, speaks volumes as to their refusal to subject the agency to the oft-noted “rigorous oversight” used to justify the vast power, deference and trust reposed. Things must be bad beyond our worst nightmare for Horowitz to go after the FBI’s budget to get his job done. And yet this has barely made a ripple in the public consciousness.