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Federal Agencies Play Hot Potato over Wiretapping Probe

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Message Matthew Cardinale

Atlanta Progressive News (January 24, 2006)

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.

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Matthew Cardinale is Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He has written previously for the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper, Shelterforce Magazine, The Advocate Magazine, The San Francisco Bay View, and the Berkeley Daily Planet Newspaper. He has also (more...)
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