Obama's Inspector General Problem

Hmmm, does the Obama administration have a problem with the watchdogs assigned to keep an eye on federal agencies?

We ask because the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner [pictured] is embroiled in a dispute with an inspector general overseeing the government financial crisis bailout, and the administration recently fired the inspector general for the International Trade Commission.

We already know about the White House firing of Gerald Walpin, the inspector general who oversaw AmeriCorps, and wrote an unfavorable audit of the CUNY Research Foundation's Teaching Fellows program.

Inspectors general are supposed to be completely independent and are supposed to have broad powers to look into whatever they want. But with three of them on the ropes, you have to wonder whether that's going to be the case under Obama.

Some of the details: Neil Barofsky has the job of overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The Tribune reports that he's battling with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner over access to certain documents. Treasury is apparently claiming "attorney-client privelige."

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has written a letter of concern to Geithner demanding information about the dispute, which has delayed one investigation and raised the question of whether Barofsky is going to be free of White House meddling.

Meanwhile, the Obama folks recently declined to renew the contract of the ITC's inspector general Judith Gwynne. Grassley was concerned about that one because an ITC employee took away documents from the IG's office.

"It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job," Grassley wrote on Tuesday, according to the Tribune.

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