S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Does the Inspector General system work?

NASA at its finest and worst -

On June 8 I tried, with difficulty, to watch two fascinating television broadcasts happening at about the same time. First it was NASA's Atlantis shuttle launch day for the STS-117 mission to continue work on the International Space Station.

Second there was a C-SPAN rebroadcast of a -
Joint Hearing on Complaints Against NASA Inspector General .
House and Senate Science Cmtes. hold a joint hearing into complaints against NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb. Witnesses include Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and I.G. Cobb. He is accused of failing to investigate safety violations and retaliating against whistleblowers. 6/7/2007: WASHINGTON, DC: 3 hr. 21 min.

According to the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, Press Release about the hearing :: June 7, 2007 -

Joint Subcommittee Probe Questions NASA Inspector General’s Conduct in Office (Washington, DC)

Members of the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Members of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics and Related Sciences held a joint hearing today to review the case against NASA Inspector General Robert “Moose” Cobb.

Cobb remains on the job after a six-month investigation by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) found that Cobb had abused his authority and exhibited the appearance of a lack of independence from NASA management.

When an atmosphere exists that the letter or spirit of the law "does not apply to us," patterns of misbehavior are almost inevitable, "Seven of Eight," my roommate pointed out to me. He reminded me that, for the last six years the current Bush administration has established a climate of widespread lawlessness and corruption that has ben disastrous for the nation. Operating outside or beyond the law was an example established early on by our current president (OCP). Often the only person who is watching on behalf of the American people is a truly independent professional Inspector General (see title link above for an excellent Wikipedia article) with integrity , such as in the following example:

"Reign of Bush Fish and Wildlife Official Ends in Disgrace" is the headline from the Environment News Service (5/1/07). Quoting from the story,

Monday's resignation of a high-ranking Interior Department official who manipulated the work of government scientists was applauded today by environmentalists and scientists, but they cautioned that this single resignation does not solve the problem of political interference with the work of scientists at federal agencies.

Julie MacDonald left her position as the Department of Interior’s deputy assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks, from which she controlled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species program.

Her resignation follows a finding March 29 by the agency's Inspector General Earl Devaney that she violated federal ethics rules by sending "nonpublic information" to industry lobbyists

Following is an example of a glaring and notorious Inspector General system failure. The recent headline reads, "Commerce Inspector General Quits." It is by John Solomon in the (6/8/07) Washington Post. Quote,

Commerce Department Inspector General Johnnie E. Frazier retired yesterday in the face of multiple investigations and a formal report recommending that President Bush punish him for violating the whistle-blower protection law.

The Washington Post reported last month that Congress, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency were investigating allegations by subordinates that Frazier misspent money, abused government travel and retaliated against employees who raised concerns. Frazier disputed the allegations.

But the special counsel's office, which protects whistle-blowers, concluded that Frazier illegally demoted two subordinates who were witnesses in an investigation. The counsel urged Bush to punish Frazier.

This White House investigation by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency began last month. The headline reads, "White House Panel Investigates Inspector General for Iraq". It is from the (5/3/07) Washington Post, and was written by Dana Hedgpeth. To quote,
The inspector general who uncovered cases of waste, fraud and abuse in the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is under investigation by a presidential panel, according to the White House.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is under investigation after complaints were made by former employees about his work habits and work he required employees to perform. The investigation is headed by the integrity committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which is made up of inspectors general appointed by the president.

"Allegations have been made about Inspector General Bowen, and the integrity committee is investigating them to determine the validity of them," the council's chairman, Clay Johnson III, said yesterday. Johnson is also deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Inspectors General have very difficult and lonely jobs. They and their staffs are supposed to remain independent from their department heads. When the do this it is magnificent, as in the Fish and Wildlife story above, and the system works. When they are not independent, but enmeshed, as with the NASA IG, we need to be worried. And Congress is worried enough to continue to press for accountability here, just as they press for the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales. I do worry that maybe the White House is the "fox watching the hen house" here. Congress must remain very vigilant and be supportive of our good IG's.

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