The si­lenc­ing of the in­spec­tors gen­eral

Find­ing govern­ment abuse in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and do­ing noth­ing about it was wrong

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son Vic­tor Davis Han­son, a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity, is the au­thor of “The Sec­ond World Wars: How the First Global Con­flict Was Fought and Won” (Ba­sic Books, 2017).

De­part­ment of Jus­tice In­spec­tor Gen­eral Michael Horowitz, an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pointee, is sched­uled to de­liver a re­port this week on DOJ and FBI abuses dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign cy­cle. Re­mem­ber: His last in­ves­ti­ga­tion of FBI mis­con­duct ad­vised a crim­i­nal re­fer­ral for fired for­mer Deputy FBI Direc­tor An­drew McCabe, who al­legedly lied to fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Mr. McCabe and at least a half­dozen other FBI em­ploy­ees quit, re­tired, were fired or were re­as­signed as a re­sult of fall­out from the politi­ciza­tion of the FBI. Yet, as Barack Obama left office, his chief of staff, De­nis McDonough, strangely boasted that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “has been his­tor­i­cally free of scan­dal.” Mr. Obama him­self re­cently con­cluded of his eight-year ten­ure, “I didn’t have scan­dals.”

Those were puz­zling as­ser­tions, given nearly non­stop scan­dals dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s eight years in office in­volv­ing the IRS; Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion; Peace

Corps; Se­cret Ser­vice; Veter­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion; and Bureau of

Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives, not to men­tion the

Clin­ton email server scan­dal, the Beng­hazi scan­dal and the 2016 Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee email scan­dal.

For nearly eight years, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sought to cover up se­rial wrong­do­ing by wag­ing a ver­i­ta­ble war against the watch­dog in­spec­tors gen­eral of var­i­ous fed­eral agen­cies.

In 2014, 47 of the na­tion’s 73 in­spec­tors gen­eral signed a let­ter al­leg­ing that Mr. Obama had stonewalled their “abil­ity to con­duct our work thor­oughly, in­de­pen­dently, and in a timely man­ner.”

The frus­trated non­par­ti­san au­di­tors cited sys­tem­atic Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fusals to turn over in­crim­i­nat­ing doc­u­ments that were cen­tral to their in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion had pur­port­edly tried to side­track an IG in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble mis­con­duct by Sacramento Mayor Kevin John­son. In ad­di­tion, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port­edly thwarted IG in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Am­trak, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, the Trou­bled As­set Re­lief Pro­gram and the Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get.

De­spite the cam­paign against these in­de­pen­dent fed­eral au­di­tors, a num­ber of in­spec­tors gen­eral still man­aged to is­sue damn­ing in­dict­ments of un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior.

In 2012, Mr. Horowitz rec­om­mended that 14 Jus­tice De­part­ment and ATF of­fi­cials be dis­ci­plined for their con­duct in the “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” gun­walk­ing scan­dal.

A 2013 IG au­dit found that the IRS had tar­geted con­ser­va­tive groups for spe­cial scru­tiny prior to the 2012 Obama re-elec­tion ef­fort.

In 2014, an in­ter­nal au­dit re­vealed that CIA of­fi­cials had hacked the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s com­put­ers while com­pil­ing a re­port on en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques. CIA Direc­tor John Bren­nan had claimed that his agents were not im­prop­erly mon­i­tor­ing Se­nate staff com­puter files. He was forced to re­tract his de­nials and apol­o­gize for his pre­var­i­ca­tion.

In 2016, the State De­part­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral found that Hil­lary Clin­ton had never sought ap­proval for her reck­less and il­le­gal use of an un­se­cured private email server. The IG also found that staffers who were wor­ried about na­tional se­cu­rity be­ing com­pro­mised by the un­se­cured server were si­lenced by other Clin­ton aides.

Still, Mr. Obama was right in a way: A scan­dal does not be­come a scan­dal if no one acts on find­ings of im­proper be­hav­ior.

Un­der for­mer at­tor­neys gen­eral Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the find­ings of dozens of IGs were snubbed. That raises the ques­tion: What good are in­spec­tors gen­eral if a pres­i­dent ig­nores any il­le­gal­ity and im­pro­pri­ety that they have un­cov­ered?

An­swer: Not much good at all — un­less an in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion is of a dif­fer­ent political party than the out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion. Once that hap­pens in our politi­cized sys­tem, there is a rare in­ter­est in not cov­er­ing up or ig­nor­ing a damn­ing IG re­port, but in act­ing on it.

We may now be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing one of those un­usual oc­ca­sions.

Soon, var­i­ous in­spec­tor gen­eral re­ports may ap­pear con­cern­ing FISA court abuse and im­proper be­hav­ior at the De­part­ment of Jus­tice, FBI, CIA and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign cy­cle. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors are, for the most part, Obama ap­pointees, not Trump ap­pointees.

At some point, the idea of tooth­less in­spec­tors gen­eral needs to be re­vis­ited. Some­thing is ter­ri­bly wrong when dozens of IGs found wrong­do­ing, only to ob­ject that their ef­forts were be­ing thwarted by an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that had ap­pointed most of them — and claimed to be scan­dal-free.

Find­ing govern­ment abuse and do­ing noth­ing about it is worse than not find­ing any at all.


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