(NaturalNews) Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency assured Congress during recent testimony on Capitol Hill that the agency planned to resolve an extraordinary dispute with its inspector general regarding allegations that an office of the agency run by President Obama's top political staff worked to stymie independent investigations.
Bob Perciasepe, the EPA's deputy administrator, told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he'll order the agency's obscure Office of Homeland Security to ask permission to share information with the inspector general's office, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The declaration came during a congressional hearing following revelations that a top investigator with the inspector general testified that the office, which operates out of the EPA administrator's office, "had for years systematically refused to share information on external threats, computer security and employee misconduct, citing national security" concerns, the AP reported, adding:
The 10-person office was initially set up in 2003 by then Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to coordinate EPA activities such as hazardous materials cleanup and water contamination that can stem from terrorist attacks.
In 2012, the office signed an agreement with the FBI to be the point of contact for all investigations with a national security connection. But Patrick Sullivan, an assistant EPA inspector general for investigations, told lawmakers that national security was an excuse to keep his office in the dark on misconduct allegations.
'Vast majority of work is done efficiently'
"I have zero visibility on what the Office of Homeland Security is doing. That is the problem," Sullivan told the House panel.
Perciasepe said that he would direct the office to ask the FBI's permission to be more forthcoming with the EPA.
"We do not want to have a problem with the inspector general's access," said Perciasepe. He also said that since Obama took office EPA personnel had cooperated with more than 2,600 audits and investigations.
"The vast majority of work is done efficiently, appropriately and with good result," he noted.
Enhancing and encouraging more inter-agency cooperation was a part of intelligence community reforms passed in 2004, when the position of Director of National Intelligence was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in part on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. However, intelligence community officials still routinely complain about "stovepiping" -- a metaphorical term used to describe the process of compartmentalizing intelligence data within an agency, which prevents its sharing or distribution among the community as a whole.
Child porn, other ethics violations, essentially tolerated
A week after the hearings, the EPA's Office of Inspector General (IG) released a report detailing 16 cases involving employee integrity issues, including one who had pleaded guilty to using his EPA email to access a child pornography website in 2012, The Hill reported.
The IG report noted that the office closed the 16 cases between October 2013 and March 2014. Cases ranged from the accessing of child pornography to an EPA manager believing that his office had been bugged.
No names were disclosed in the report. The employee who admitted to accessing child pornography was eventually sentenced to five years of probation and was permitted to quietly retire from the EPA during the IG's investigation.
As reported by The Hill:
EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said that the agency has not seen the OIG's findings in the child pornography case, but it fully supports the investigation. "EPA has in place a number of controls to prevent employee access to inappropriate content from its networks and is constantly working to upgrade and improve those controls," Johnson said.
Some of the cases dealt with ethics violations, including one political appointee who accepted a gift of travel and a flight in a private jet from a lobbyist. The IG report said agency attorneys spoke to the appointee, but the EPA took no further actions.