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Grassley Complains of Library of Congress Interference

By Ed O'Keefe

The inside of the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress (Photo by Michaela McNichol/Post)

Updated 2:25 p.m. ET

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) charged today that top officials at the Library of Congress have interfered with investigations conducted by its independent watchdogs and have frequently admonished investigators for the tone and focus of their investigations.

"Your office's attempts to influence and/or control the OIG appear to be in direct contravention of the principles underlying the creation of the Inspectors General," Grassley wrote in a sharply worded letter delivered today to Librarian of the United States James H. Billington. "Independence is the hallmark of the Inspectors General throughout the country."

In response, Library of Congress spokesman Matt Raymond said Billington will review the letter and respond in full. He also noted that Billington requested the Library's first-ever audit and called for the establishment of an independent IG.

"There are a number of serious factual errors in the events as stated
in the letter that we will correct," Raymond said, but would not elaborate.

Aides to the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee are looking into similar cases of interference with inspector general investigations at other government agencies, according to a spokeswoman for Grassley.

Last year, the Library of Congress Office of Inspector General executed 13 federal search warrants and served 16 IG subpoenas. The IG also obtained three federal grand jury subpoenas that led to the prosecution of six individuals. Investigations have focused on employees' activities involving child pornography possession, identity theft and embezzlement. The OIG employs 18 full- and part-time investigators and auditors.

Grassley's letter includes e-mails sent Aug. 8, 2008 by Library Chief Operating Officer Jo Ann Jenkins to Inspector General Karl Schornagel that criticize the tone and focus of a Justice Department press release regarding the successful criminal investigation of a former employee's possession of child pornography.

Not realizing that the release was written by Justice Department officials, Jenkins asked Schornagel "Why does the IG feel it necessary to get publicity on this," stating later that "This does nothing buy [sic] highlight the issue more in the press." In a reply, Schornagel reminded Jenkins that his office had nothing to do with the release since it was authored by the Justice Department.

In a separate November 2007 e-mail, Jenkins wrote that the tone of the IG's semiannual report to Congress was "the most negative" she had ever seen and then provided suggested language to soften its tone.

But Schornagel and his staff are most concerned that Congress revoked its firearms privileges with passage of the 2009 omnibus spending bill. Library officials and House appropriators supported the move, stating that the Library's OIG did not need armed law enforcement powers and could instead rely on Library of Congress Police or Capitol Police. The issue is up for reconsideration next week when the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch meets to consider next year's budget requests.

Grassley did not address the firearm issue directly in his letter, but reminded Billington that "Like any federal agency, the OIG has a responsibility to maintain adequate oversight of the agency funding along with its personnel, which requires independent and unobstructed criminal and civil investigations, evaluations and audits."

Schornagel says his agents cannot conduct effective investigations without firearms.

"The average person would have no idea that these things happen at the Library of Congress," he said in an interview. "But these things happen here as they do at other federal agencies and there’s fraud, waste and abuse."

Most concerning, Schornagel said the loss of firearm protection has jeopardized six other open investigations involving child pornography possession, computer crimes, identity theft and procurement fraud.

“Too often, inspectors general don’t have the independence they need to hold agencies accountable," Grassley said in a separate statement. "This isn’t the only case where agency leaders are trying to sabotage an inspector general’s work. I’m not going to stop my effort to empower inspectors general and also keep the pressure on them to go after mismanagement and abuse.”

The senator's Finance Committee staff is investigating two other allegations of interference with OIG investigations at executive branch agencies, according to Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny, who could only say that the investigations are ongoing.

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 4, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Oversight  
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Firearms? Oh piddelydink!
That's dumber than a post. If you are involved in a criminal investigation and you need to confront someone have professionals do the job. A firearm held by an untrained IG is dangerous. The polic maintain a high level of firearm training and the need for force is hardly an everyday event at the Library of Congress IG office

Posted by: djah | June 4, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, if the Library OIG investigators are armed, that fact alone completely impeaches their office's judgment. Who in the world thinks a Library auditor needs to be a gunslinger?

In America, we too often use the handgun as a "badge of office." This seems like an extreme case of that.

Posted by: DupontJay | June 4, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Being armed likely allowed the IG employees to reap the benefits of being a Federal LEO in regards to some special privileges, and retirement. Not saying that they would need them, but one can certainly see why they might be desired.

Posted by: OneHillStaffer | June 4, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Chuckie baby! Wasn't it George W. Bush -- YOUR GUY -- who was the leader of Guards, Guns, and Gates (and I don't mean Daryl)?

Isn't it the Repugnants who are against freedom, and believe that every shoe, every baby diaper, and every trash can is a terrorist plot?

Come off it. You're only 21 percent of the electorate. Resign now.

Posted by: bs2004 | June 4, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The Special Agents in the Library of Congress-OIG are GS-1811 Criminal Investigators (the same job series as Special Agents in the Secret Service, ATF, DEA, etc.), and they are the only ones in the OIG who carry firearms, NOT the auditors. If you read the article, you saw that the LOC-OIG cases involved serving search warrants and arresting people for criminal violations, including possession of child pornography, identity theft, and embezzlement. All 1811 Special Agents, including those at the LOC-OIG, receive extensive training in the use of firearms. There are thousands of armed Special Agents in OIG agencies throughout Government, and those at the LOC-OIG perform the same duties as those Agents. To take firearms away from trained Special Agents, who are in the middle of conducting criminal cases, is unconscionable.

Posted by: FellowAgent | June 4, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

There is much more to said about the condition of the Library of Congress, and its future, and we must rely on investigative journalism, above and beyond the Library's Inspector General, to look into this. Above all, as I have written before, the Library is underfunded. The main building probably needs a complete overhaul of its electrical and mechanical systems. The newspaper division cannot properly protect the many thousand volumes of its priceless old newspapers. And the Librarian seems to care more about good publicity than good maintenance.

Posted by: peterbridges | June 4, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

A law enforcement officer without a gun is like a jockey without a horse-useless.

Anyone who disagrees about the IG Agent carrying a gun please stop by my office and take some interview forms to a certain address at 5am , and please be careful and not knock on the wrong door.

GS-1811 Law Enforcement need weapons or dissolve the agency.

Posted by: COWENS99 | June 4, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Guns for computer crimes? Is this in case someone attacks an investigator with a mouse???? Turn the criminal stuff over to the capitol police. Let them knock on the door at 5:00 am. They know what theyre doing. Arent IGs supposed to make sure government money is not misspent? Stick to the money trail that's your job.

Posted by: timmysmith | June 4, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

well, if you're such a crack investigator, don't you think you could at least give me the right address? And, if you want me to do your job for you, just tell me where I can pick up these forms. And let me know why it's necessary to serve them at 5 a.m.

Posted by: terrancehallmark | June 5, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

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