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DOJ watchdog seeks more power to probe high-level officials

[JURIST] US Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Glenn A. Fine [official profile] has urged the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs [official website] to strengthen the role of the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) by eliminating jurisdictional limitations on the inspector general [transcript, PDF; recorded video, RAM] preventing the OIG from investigating alleged wrongdoing against the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and other senior DOJ lawyers. In testimony Wednesday, Fine said the limits were inappropriate and contradicted the spirit of 1978 Inspector General Act [text]. Fine criticized the current arrangement giving the Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website] oversight of high-level officials, saying that the OPR lacks statutory independence and operates with an inherent conflict of interest because it reports directly to the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General. Fine also urged legislation requiring the President to provide the reasons for removal to the inspector general and Congress in advance.

According to Fine, the OIG specifically objected to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' assigning of an internal investigation of whether political factors affected US Attorney firings to the OPR, and forced an agreement to a joint investigation [JURIST reports] into the controversial removal of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archive]. The Washington Times has more.

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