Senators urge State Department to turn over requested Iraq documents to special IG

Lawmakers have sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to ensure that the State Department provides certain documents requested by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which claims the department has previously withheld.

In an audit released Oct. 24, SIGIR criticized State's lack of strategy and effort in training Iraqi police. The special IG also complained that the department did not cooperate with all document requests.

Although State agreed with most recommendations and said its own report would be released in November, the department defended its decision not to release the documents.

In a Sept. 21 hearing, Patrick Kennedy, State's undersecretary for management, argued the requested documents were outside SIGIR's jurisdiction, which State said includes only Iraq reconstruction funds. The department's own auditors already have requested the documents in question, Kennedy said.

The authors of the letter, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Tom Coburn, R-Okla.[ and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who all are members of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said SIGIR's assertions were "deeply troubling."

SIGIR's jurisdiction also includes Iraq reconstruction funds, which State has spent on contracts to support other activities and has an obligation to comply with all "lawful and practicable" requests SIGIR makes, the senators said. State also does not have the authority to withhold documents, even when SIGIR has not coordinated audits with other IGs, according to the senators.

"We believe that this unwarranted obstruction of SIGIR will weaken an important oversight tool for the taxpayers and obstruct your own efforts at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the department," the senators wrote. "Therefore, we request that you direct your officers to comply with all lawful current and future requests from SIGIR for documents and information it may require."

The senators sent the letter Oct. 31, and the department has not yet offered a response.

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