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The Nation

March 17, 2011

Top lawmaker protests 'whistle-blower' demotion

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

A department spokeswoman, Amy Kudwa, said Issa's letter was "rife with inaccuracies and distorts the facts." She said the agency will continue to cooperate with the congressional investigation.

Issa disclosed in his letter that Papoi complained confidentially to the inspector general in March 2010 that the Homeland Security Department had illegally sidetracked hundreds of requests from journalists, watchdog groups and others for federal records to top political advisers, who wanted information about those requesting the materials.

In some cases the release of documents considered politically sensitive was delayed, according to more than 1,000 pages of e-mails subsequently obtained by the AP, which wrote about the practice last summer. The AP reported that the DHS inspector general's office had conducted interviews to determine whether political advisers acted improperly, but their findings have not been made public nearly one year after Papoi's complaints.

"I knew full well I could be jeopardizing my career, but I have to be able to sleep at night," Papoi told the AP in an interview late Wednesday.

Concerns about the political reviews continue to resonate. Earlier this week, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said, "It would seem obvious that the political vetting process at the Department of Homeland Security that was uncovered by AP violates both the president's and the attorney general's orders."

Grassley said he has asked inspectors general at dozens of executive branch agencies to investigate whether other parts of the administration are conducting similar political reviews of federal information requests.

A senior Justice Department official in charge of openness policy for the administration, Melanie Pustay, told senators on Tuesday, "Certainly if the statements in the (AP) article are true, it would be very serious, and we would have very serious concerns with that."

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