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Government watchdog: FBI, DEA violated the law by blocking investigation into sexual harassment cases

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The FBI and other branches of the Justice Department are completely ignoring a recently passed law that requires them to comply with investigations by the department's Office of Inspector General, the OIG told Congress on Tuesday.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was due to testify Tuesday morning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, just a few weeks after the OIG released a report saying Drug Enforcement Agencies routinely held "sex parties" in Colombia with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels. That report outlined several other problems related to sexual harassment, including problems that various agencies have reporting these incidents up the chain of command.

 (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) The FBI and other agencies under the Department of Justice were called out Tuesday for violating a law that requires them to cooperate with Inspector General investigations. Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

OIG also called out the FBI and DEA for failing to cooperate with the OIG as the report was being produced, and in his prepared testimony, Horowitz said these agencies are violating a law passed by Congress last year.

Specifically, he noted that because of past problems cooperating with OIG, Congress included language in the bill funding the government through 2015 that prohibits the Justice Department or its agencies from impeding OIG's access to records. But he said these agencies are so far ignoring that command from Congress, which is found in Section 218 of the law.

"Despite the Congress's clear statement of intent, the Department and the FBI continue to proceed exactly as they did before Section 218 was adopted – spending appropriated funds to review records to determine if they should be withheld from the OIG," he said. "The effect is as if Section 218 was never adopted."

Horowitz said both the FBI and the DEA raised "baseless objections" to providing access to information about how it handles sexual harassment claims. "These delays created an unnecessary waste of time and resources," he said.

He said the FBI didn't give the OIG access to several sexual harassment cases, and said the DEA purposely limited its search terms when it replied to OIG.

"[W]e learned that the DEA used only a small fraction of the terms we had provided to search its database for the information needed for our review," Horowitz said. "Rather than delay our report further, we decided to proceed with releasing it given the significance of our findings."

"This review starkly demonstrates the dangers inherent in allowing the department and its components to decide on their own what documents they will share with the OIG, and even whether the Inspector General Act requires them to provide us with requested information," he concluded.

Despite his complaints, both the FBI and the DEA said they fully cooperated with the OIG as it worked on its report.

"We are confident that we provided the OIG all information relevant to this review," said Kevin Perkins, FBI associate deputy director.

"It is against DEA's best interests to obfuscate personnel issues, and I can assure you there was no effort to do so in this case nor would I tolerate any effort to do so," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said her prepared remarks.

One last thing…
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