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The Nation

March 17, 2011

Top lawmaker protests 'whistle-blower' demotion

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

She said Justice Department rules make clear that the identity of the person requesting records shouldn't affect whether the government provides information. She acknowledged that political appointees in the Justice Department are told about information requests "for awareness and management purposes, and that's all."

Kudwa, the Homeland Security Department spokeswoman, said the agency was not aware until Issa's disclosure that Papoi was the one who had complained about her bosses to the inspector general in March 2010. Papoi accused political appointees of "breaking the law by knowingly and intentionally delaying and obstructing the release of agency records" under the Freedom of Information Act.

Issa said administration lawyers also believe Papoi has been secretly providing information to congressional investigators, who interviewed Papoi with her private lawyer on March 3. In the interview, Papoi criticized political appointees in Napolitano's office. The Homeland Security Department said Papoi was notified about her new boss' hiring on Jan. 10, the same week in which Issa has separately acknowledged that his investigators began obtaining materials that raised new questions about the agency's political reviews.

Issa said Papoi was told on March 4, the day after meeting with investigators, that Barber would begin as her new boss on Monday this week and that she needed to vacate her office before March 10.

"By notifying Ms. Papoi of her less desirable office assignment and diminished job responsibilities the day after she appeared before the committee, the department created the appearance of retaliation against a witness," Issa wrote. "The department's decision to marginalize the FOIA Office's most senior career official after two years of record performance is hard to countenance."

The AP obtained Issa's letter during Sunshine Week, when U.S. news organizations promote open government and freedom of information, and on the eve of a congressional hearing by Issa's committee about government transparency.

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