From Rolling Stone:
Bush's Lap Dogs:
What Happened to DC's Watchdogs?
Tim DickinsonPosted Oct 31, 2007 6:00 AM
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IN OCTOBER, WITH OSAMA BIN LADEN still at large, the Central Intelligence Agency announced the creation of a new spy unit. Headed by a top deputy and staffed with a select corps of agents, the operation was charged with gathering intelligence on a single man — a foe who was threatening to undermine the president's War on Terror.
The CIA's new target? John Helgerson, the man appointed by President Bush to expose wrongdoing at the CIA. As inspector general of the agency, Helgerson came under attack from his superiors simply for trying to do his job: He was aggressively investigating torture at the CIA's secret prisons.
Like the other twenty-eight inspectors within the executive branch, Helgerson is supposed to be immune from such political meddling. Created in 1978 as a post-Watergate check on Nixonian abuses of power, the inspectors bypass the chain of command within their own agencies and report their findings directly to Congress. By law, the president must appoint these watchdogs "without regard to political affiliation" and "solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability."
But as the investigation of Helgerson makes clear, the administration is more interested in turning the watchdogs into lap dogs. Just as he politicized every other facet of government from FEMA to the Farm Bureau, President Bush has ignored the law and stocked the inspector general posts with inexperienced cronies. According to a study by the House Oversight Committee, more than a third of Bush's inspectors previously held a political post in the White House, compared to none of Bill Clinton's appointees. Judging from their résumés — deputy counsel to the Bush-Cheney transition team, special assistant to Trent Lott, senior counsel to Fred Thompson, daughter to Chief Justice William Rehnquist — Bush's appointees seem more qualified to be partisans at a neoconservative think tank than America's last line of defense against fraud and abuse. What's more, fewer than one-fifth of the inspectors appointed by Bush had previous experience as auditors, compared to two-thirds of Clinton's appointees. "The IGs have been politicized and dumbed down," said Rep. Brad Miller, oversight chair of the House science committee.
Rather than root out wrongdoing, Bush's appointees — men with nicknames like Moose and Cookie — have actually helped the White House cover up corrupt defense contracts, conceal the theft of sensitive rocket technology and whitewash a host of scandals from Abu Ghraib to Medicare prescription drugs. "Not only has this administration been aided in avoiding scrutiny by a compliant Republican Congress, they installed inspectors general who were not going to use their positions aggressively — if at all," says Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
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