Federal Agencies Play Hot Potato over Wiretapping Probe


(APN) ATLANTA  – The investigative units of several federal agencies are denying their responsibility for probing Bush’s approval of–and the US Attorney General’s justifications for–wiretapping Americans without the consent of Congress, Atlanta Progressive News (APN) has learned.

The flowchart of non-accountability–tracing letters to and from members of US Congress, the US Department of Justice, and the US Department of Defense–has been made available on U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren’s website.

Most fascinatingly, in response to a letter from US Rep. Lofgren and 38 other members of Congress, the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) claims an investigation into Gonzales’s role would not fall within the agency’s purview. They claim it should be handled as a matter of the quality of Gonzales’s service as an attorney by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Rep. Lofgren and other members of Congress disagree. The investigation should be focused on whether Gonzales did something illegal; it should not take the form of a performance review, they argue, according to a letter on Rep. Lofgren’s website.

“It looks like they’re playing hot potato!” one staffer for a member of US Congress told APN.

Another source told APN that the Office of Professional Responsibility does not appear to have the resources or security clearances required to investigate Gonzales’s role in Bush’s domestic wiretapping.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense (DOD) declined to investigate the wiretapping issue, arguing that the NSA’s own probe would suffice.

The first letter from 39 Members of US Congress was sent on December 20, 2005, to Thomas F. Gimble, Acting Inspector General for the DOD; Glenn A. Fine, Inspector General for the USDOJ; and David M. Walker, Comptroller for the General Accountability Office (GAO).

Mr. Walker of the GAO appears to have not responded as of yet.

“We ask that you begin immediate investigations of these alleged violations of the law and misuse of appropriated funds by the Attorney General of the United States, the Director of the National Security Agency, and any of their subordinate officials. We ask that you be ready to brief us, the undersigned Members of Congress, on the results of your investigations no later than January 31, 2006,” wrote Lofgren and the other Members.

No member of the Georgia Congressional Delegation signed their name to the letter.

“After reviewing your letter, we have determined that the issue of the Attorney General’s actions in this matter falls outside the jurisdiction of the OIG (Office of the Inspector General),” the letter from the USDOJ, dated January 9, 2006, said.

“Specifically,” the letter continues, “the actions of the Attorney General or other Department attorneys in providing legal advice regarding the legality of warrantless surveillance by NSA relates to the legal duties of Department attorneys, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), not the OIG.

“As a result, we have contacted the Counsel for the Department’s OPR and have forwarded your letter to OPR for its review and any action it deems appropriate,” Glenn A. Fine wrote.

The letter was copied to H. Marshall Jarrett, Counsel for the Office of Professional Responsibility.

The OPR may conduct an investigation, APN has learned.

However, that’s not what members of US Congress really have requested, 15 members of Congress replied, in a letter dated January 9, 2006, back to the USDOJ.

Meanwhile, the DOD was not prepared to deal with the matter, as per their letter, dated January 10, 2006.

“Thank you for the letter from you and your colleagues dated December 20, 2005, concerning press reports of certain surveillance activates by the National Security Agency (NSA). We have determined that the Inspector General of NSA is already actively reviewing aspects of that program. The NSA’s Office of Inspector General is a well-staffed, highly professional organization with considerable expertise in the oversight of electronic surveillance, and we work closely with them on a number of issues… The program you inquire about is highly classified. In light of those facts and… our confidence in the competence and integrity of the NSA Inspector General and his staff, we have referred your letter to him with the suggestion that he review it and reply through the appropriate channel, which in this instance would be the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He has agreed to do so,” the letter, from Thomas Gimble of the DOD, stated.

“Should you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me or Mr. John R. Crane, Assistant Inspector General for Communications and Congressional Liaison at (703)604-8324,” the letter stated.

US Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) gave moving testimony last week to a basement hearing held by the partisan minority members of the House Judiciary Committee. “We all know we face an enemy out there that’s really an ideological enemy. We all know that there are plans, draconian plans, to destroy American society,” Watson said, according to a transcript by Miller Reporting, Inc., posted on BradBlog.

“But we have an administration that chooses to operate in the dark,” Watson said.

“And so I’m hoping that… members of the public will shed some light on what they feel… and maybe give us some direction that we can take… The trust that the people put in us to serve on their behalf and to speak for them is being violated. We’ve got to do something about it,” Watson said.

Matthew Cardinale is the Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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