The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General published Friday its annual report titled "Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Justice Department." The memo, which is 15 pages long, can be found online here and is worth reading. Not because it is particularly candid or revealing— these are lawyers writing about other lawyers, after all—but rather because we see in both the light and in the shadows of this document so much of what has animated this busy year at the intersection of law and politics.
Interspersed here are quotes from an interview I conducted by telephone Friday with the inspector general himself, Michael Horowitz, who offered to explain as best he can the memo he vetted, signed and delivered up to the world. I'll offer these in the order in which they appear in the memo, although I suspect that "Growing Crisis in the Federal Prison System," which is the title of the first section of the memo, won't get nearly as much attention as will subsequent sections about civil liberties and federal mismanagement.
As you go through the report, and even this summary of it, remember that the Inspector General's office is, even in Horowitz's words, "not in the business of... recommending particular policies" for the Justice Department. It serves to react, as a watchdog, to bark about what merits barking about. In this respect, it's like a judge who will not render an "advisory opinion" without a live case or controversy before her. The function of the OIG, by statute and by tradition, is essentially to tell the Justice Department what its employees are doing wrong instead of telling them precisely how to do things right.