"The department is much more than just a federal agency," declared Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Justice Department, in his opening statement Thursday at an oversight hearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee. "It is the guardian of our system of justice, and is responsible for enforcing our laws fairly without bias and above all with the utmost of integrity."
As if to prove his point, Horowitz had come to Capitol Hill to update lawmakers on the various good works the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has performed since last September, when he came to talk with them about the "Fast and Furious" gun program. Last December, for example, the OIG issued a trenchant report on Clarence Aaron's clemency petition. And, last week, there was a detailed report criticizing the Justice Department for continued partisan rancor within its Voting Rights section (but exonerating Labor nominee Thomas Perez of more serious misconduct).
It was a polite hearing on Thursday. There were several jokes. And questions about the Voting Rights Act that no one expected Horowitz to answer. There was talk about gun violence and background checks. But not a single lawmaker asked Horowitz why the OIG isn't investigating the Bureau of Prison over policies and practices that have resulted in two new pending federal lawsuits in Colorado alleging shocking patterns of abuse and neglect of the nation's prisoners. (The Atlantic's ongoing coverage of these cases can be found here.)