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Law Undermines the DOJ's Inspector General

The National Law Journal has a fascinating article this morning pointing out that Congress has just passed legislation giving significantly more power to the federal government's inspector generals who operate as watchdogs for department and agencies--except one inspectors general office got the short end of the stick:

The Senate on April 23 approved, by unanimous consent, S. 2324, the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008. But the bill passed only after the lawmakers agreed to an amendment by Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., which, among other items, deleted a provision giving the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) jurisdiction to investigate misconduct allegations against department attorneys, including its most senior officials.

Unlike all other OIGs who can investigate misconduct within their entire agency, Justice's OIG must refer allegations against department attorneys to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The latter office, unlike the OIG, is not statutorily independent and reports directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general.

The article doesn't explain why Kyl, along with the White House, pushed to keep the Department of Justice's Inspector General from being able to investigate DOJ lawyers. We're making some phone calls, but it's also worth recalling a bit of history: Last year, the IG's office was thwarted in its effects to do their own investigation into Attorney General scandal. Instead, the IG was instructed to team-up with the  far less independent that the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Of course, there is also the issue of the senior DOJ lawyers who penned memos that may have cleared the way for torture. Just two months ago, Senators Durbin and Whitehouse requested that the IG and OPR both investigate the memos. The OPR hasn't responded. Meanwhile, IG office says it would investigate--if only the law let them.

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