Thursday, May 11, 2006

DoJ Ethics Office Ends Inquiry into Eavesdrop Scheme

The papers report this morning that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has ended its investigation into the role of DoJ lawyers in the development of the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (NYTimes, WaPo). Why, you ask?

OPR director H. Marshall Jarrett wrote yesterday to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who had requested the investigation, to notify him that it was over. Said Jarrett, "we have been unable to make meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program. Without these clearances, we cannot investigate this matter and therefore have closed our investigation." The office requested clearance for its staff in January; the request was denied on Tuesday, so Jarrett called the whole thing off.

The Times quotes DoJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse as calling the NSA eavesdropping "highly classified and exceptionally sensitive," adding "only those involved in national security with a specific need to know are provided details about this classified program."

Apparently investigating the program doesn't get you the need to know you need in order to, well, investigate the program. Road-blocking an ethics investigation doesn't seem to be the smartest route to take at the moment, and I hope the OPR will revisit this issue and continue to at least try to do its job. There are major questions here about the role of DoJ staff in the construction of this NSA program, and they should not go unanswered.


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