Issue in Focus
Mar 06 2015
“Trust but verify.” The power of this old proverb is that it expresses a core truth about the human condition that resonates with people at all times and in all places. No matter who you are or where you come from, life has probably taught you that most people are deserving of both trust and skepticism.
This basic truth is at the heart of our system of government and our constitutional order. The American people trust their public officials to represent them, but they also want to verify that this trust is not violated when they’re not looking. That’s why we have a system of checks and balances within our government.
One of these checks is the Inspector General Act, which creates within each federal agency an Office of the Inspector General – an independent, and therefore impartial, entity charged with investigating allegations of departmental misconduct. To be effective in carrying out this mission, each Inspector General was granted complete jurisdiction over all cases of alleged misconduct by department personnel – except for one: the Inspector General within the Department of Justice.
The Justice Department is the only federal agency in which the jurisdiction of the Inspector General is limited by a second investigative body – the Office of Professional Responsibility – which reports directly to the Attorney General and has jurisdiction over all cases involving alleged misconduct by DOJ attorneys, investigators, and law enforcement personnel.
As a result, the American people have little assurance that the investigations into alleged misconduct by DOJ attorneys will be objective, transparent, and unencumbered by any conflict of interest. The Inspector General Access Act is a simple, common-sense solution that will bring the Department of Justice into harmony with all other federal agencies and help restore the American people’s trust in their public institutions.