Color me surprised:
The Justice Department’s internal ethics watchdog says it never investigated repeated complaints by federal judges that the government had misled them about the NSA’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications.
Two judges on the court that oversees the spying programs separately rebuked federal officials in top-secret court orders for misrepresenting how the NSA was harvesting and analyzing communication records. In a sharply worded 2009 order, one of the judges, Reggie Walton, went so far as to suggest that he could hold national security officials in contempt or refer their conduct to outside investigators.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility routinely probes judges’ allegations that the department’s lawyers may have violated ethics rules that prohibit attorneys from misleading courts. Still, OPR said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY that it had no record of ever having investigated — or even being made aware of — the scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.
Those opinions were sufficiently critical that OPR should have reviewed the situation, even if only to assure the department that its lawyers were not to blame, former OPR attorney Leslie Griffin said. “There’s enough in the opinions that it should trigger some level of inquiry,” she said.
So the federal judges who oversee the NSA — remember how the NSA defenders crow about supervision? — believed that they were lied to and deceived and that the DOJ’s lawyers may have knowingly lied to and deceived them. That’s an ethical violation. And the response of the DOJ to this was a massive shrug of the shoulders. Even more, the DOJ told reporters it wouldn’t talk to them about it because they didn’t like the way the story was being reported.
In short, the response of the DOJ to two federal judge saying, “You lied to us!” was, “So?”