In December, we posted a blog about the the IG Empowerment Act’s pending death in 2016. Fortunately, the Senate did take the bill up in their last few days in session, and HR 6450 became law on the 16th of December. The bill’s text is available here.
This bill’s critical feature is allowing Inspectors General offices to review information pertinent to an investigation even if it is subject to privacy protections that have been used in the past to shield information from them. This means that agencies have one less way to obstruct investigations into topics they’d prefer remain outside of public view.
This is a huge win for the IG community – this bill has been sought since July 2015, when the Department of Justice stated that agencies could legally shield information subject to certain privacy laws.
The bill does have some other effects, including mandating that new information be reported to Congress by both IG offices and by CIGIE. It also enables data to be matched across agencies, and creates processes to mediate jurisdictional disputes between IG offices should they arise.
Michael Horowitz, Inspector General of the Justice Department, was interviewed about the passage of this bill just prior to then-President Obama signing it – this interview can be viewed at Government Matters.