The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Six Questions for HHS

There is very little that the Obama administration can call good news these days. News coming out of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, or Afghanistan—all places where bad foreign policy decisions (or indecision) have rapidly led to events that make them horrendous decisions. A case in point is the decision to ignore ISIL for almost 18 months. Now this barabaric Islamist group has established a "caliphate" and an army and has threatened to attack the United States itself. The president and his team of 2s seem paralyzed with indecision, half measures, and a belief in fantasy (e.g., that a unified government in Iraq will somehow result in an effective buffer against ISIL).

The only good news for the Obama White House is that the domestic scandals that are an integral part of this presidency have fallen out the news entirely. The IRS scandal, a far biggest abuse of government power than Watergate, has disappeared from most news sources (Obama's trained media hamsters are complicit in its disappearance). Benghazi has also disappeared. The other scandals? Most people can't even name them.

But Sharyl Attkisson continues to purse these scandals and notes a new one, fundamentally unreported in the MSM. She writes:
When it comes to accountability questions, one owes the benefit of the doubt to the U.S. government, whoever may be in charge. Managing the massive federal bureaucracy isn’t easy. Responding to the demands from the public, the press and Congress for public information can be time consuming.  However, it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend disbelief in the multiple instances in which the Obama administration is obstructing the release of, or losing, documents in major investigations ...

With the IRS, President Obama insisted there wasn’t a “smidgen” of corruption surrounding the tax agency’s targeting of conservatives. But a key IRS official, Lois Lerner, refused to testify to Congress. And the IRS “lost” subpoenaed documents generated by Lerner and other key officials. These may include documents that Lerner sent to outside agencies and officials. Though the IRS says it will turn over tens of thousands of other documents, it’s hard to feel confident that the most damning ones, if any existed, will have been miraculously saved.

Now, HHS–which has stonewalled subpoenas and Freedom of Information requests in the investigation of–has likewise announced that it probably destroyed some materials that have been subpoenaed in that probe.
Assuming the loss of IRS and HHS materials was accidental, it still begs several questions:

1. Is it reasonable any longer to expect accused federal agencies to conduct their own search for records that could implicate themselves and their top officials?

2. In the case of HHS documents that were not kept: why is “retraining” employees an acceptable remedy? If ordinary Americans were to fail retain documents as required under the law for tax purposes or other reasons, would they be allowed to “retrain” and continue on their way with no repercussions?

3. Specifically, is Ms. Tavenner, as the head of her agency (CMS), being disciplined for this apparent serious breach of federal records retention laws?

4. If federal agencies forgive and “retrain” their employees and top officials for failing to follow federal records retention laws, does the federal government retain the moral authority to prosecute, fine, or otherwise hold accountable ordinary Americans who commit similar infractions?

5. When did HHS (and who at HHS) realize(d) that Tavenner was not following federal records retention processes? How was this information communicated, to whom and when?

6. What searches have been conducted, by whom, and when, to retrieve the Tavenner material that she failed to save? (Aren’t such materials retrievable on archive systems and through ordinary back up methods?)
The administration has perfected the art of stonewalling, but far worse, it appears that it has crossed the line into near-criminal or criminal acts in which evidence is destroyed and legitimate investigations are impeded. Although I believed for a time that the truth would eventually come out, I now think that the Obama administration with the help of his media hamsters and obstruction by Democratic supporters may have succeeded in the efforts subvert any legitimate attempt to understand what really happened in the myriad scandals that plague this presidency.


A president and a party that believe in big government and contend that big government solutions are the best path to "social justice" work very hard to side track any news that might reflect poorly on the object of their affection. The Washington Examiner reports:
Billions of tax dollars are being lost every day to waste, fraud and corruption in the federal government, but President Obama’s administration is blocking inspectors general — the officials who are most likely to find and expose such wrongdoing — from doing their jobs. That’s the disturbing message given to Congress and the American people this week from a majority of the federal government’s 78 IGs. The blocking occurs when agency lawyers deny the authority of IGs to gain access to relevant documents and officials.

The 47 IGs minced no words: “Each of us strongly supports the principle that an inspector general must have complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that IG’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens. The importance of this principle, which was codified by Congress in Section 6(a)(1) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended (the IG Act), cannot be overstated. Refusing, restricting, or delaying an IG's access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance.”

Three specific examples were described in the IGs' letter, including blatant obstruction of important investigations at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and the Peace Corps. But many other IGs have “faced similar obstacles to their work, whether on a claim that some other law or principle trumped the clear mandate of the IG Act or by the agency’s imposition of unnecessarily burdensome administrative conditions on access. Even when we are ultimately able to resolve these issues with senior agency leadership, the process is often lengthy, delays our work, and diverts time and attention from substantive oversight activities.”

The experience of Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz is especially outrageous. In a Senate hearing in April, Horowitz said his office must go through Attorney General Eric Holder to gain access to DOJ documents and officials. Giving Holder the power to veto an IG’s access in that manner egregiously violates the 1978 law and other statutes. Obstruction like Holder’s risks “leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct – the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address,” the IGs said in their letter to Congress.
But wait ... the 'hope and change' crowd told us we would encounter the "most transparent" administration ever. Promises. Promises.