WASHINGTON - A unit run by President Obama's political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a "rogue law enforcement agency" that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA's inspector general for years, a top investigator told Congress.
The assistant EPA inspector general for investigations, Patrick Sullivan, was expected to testify later Wednesday before a House oversight committee about the activities of the EPA's little-known Office of Homeland Security.
The office of about 10 employees is overseen by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's office, and the inspector general's office is accusing it of impeding its independent investigations into employee misconduct, computer security and external threats, including compelling employees involved in cases to sign nondisclosure agreements.
"Under the heavy cloak of 'national security,' the Office of Homeland Security has repeatedly rebuffed and refused to cooperate with the OIG's ongoing requests for information or cooperation," Sullivan wrote in prepared testimony obtained by the Associated Press. "This block unquestionably has hamstrung the Office of Inspector General's ability to carry out its statutory mandate to investigate wrongdoing of EPA employees."
EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe was expected to tell Congress that the agency's employees work cooperatively with the inspector general and support its mission, according to his prepared testimony.
Perciasepe assured Congress in his prepared testimony that the EPA remains committed to ensuring that the inspector general's office successfully roots out waste, fraud, and abuse across the agency.
The EPA allegations are the latest under the Obama administration to question the effective independence of the government's inspectors general, which ostensibly operate on their own to investigate wrongdoing inside federal agencies. Two weeks ago, the Homeland Security Department secretary put the agency's former inspector general on administrative leave after senators said he was too cozy with senior agency officials and improperly rewrote, delayed or classified some critical reports to accommodate Obama's political appointees.
Last year, the Defense Department's inspector general removed material from a draft report that concluded then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had improperly disclosed classified information about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden to a producer for the movie Zero Dark Thirty.