In early 2006, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) launched an investigation to examine whether information “obtained from the NSA program, as well as whether Justice lawyers complied with the ‘legal requirements’ that govern it.”
Just a few months later, the inquiry was shut down because Alberto Gonzales refused to grant security clearances to investigators. Gonzales later suggested to the Senate that Bush made the decision to block the investigation. “The President of the United States ultimately makes decisions about who ultimately is given access,” Gonzales said.
The National Journal’s Murray Waas reported that Bush shut down the investigation upon learning that Gonzales “would likely be a focus of the investigation.” OPR’s chief lawyer Marshall Jarrett reported that Bush’s actions were unprecedented:
“Since its creation some 31 years ago, OPR has conducted many highly sensitive investigations involving Executive Branch programs and has obtained access to information classified at the highest levels,” the office’s chief lawyer, H. Marshall Jarrett, wrote in a memorandum released yesterday. “In all those years, OPR has never been prevented from initiating or pursuing an investigation.”
Now, the AP reports that the Mukasey-led DoJ will reopen the inquiry:
“We recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation,” H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the OPR, wrote to New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey. A copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press.
According to the DoJ website, “The objective of OPR is to ensure that Department of Justice attorneys continue to perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards expected of the Nation’s principal law enforcement agency.” High professional standards were once a threat to the Gonzales-led DoJ. Hopefully, that tide is turning.
UPDATE: In a response to an inquiry from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mukasey suggested that the decision to re-start the OPR inquiry had already been made prior to his confirmation. On Oct. 25, Durbin (D-IL) submitted this written question for Mukasey:
If you are confirmed, will you pledge to review this issue and to make a recommendation to the President regarding whether the OPR investigation of the Justice Department’s role in the NSA program should be allowed to proceed?
On Oct. 30, Mukasey answered, “It is my understanding this issue has already been decided. I have committed, however, to reviewing the over-all circumstances of this matter.” (p.126)