WASHINGTON – The FBI is investigating the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Justice Department officials said, following allegations of misconduct from former employees.
The investigation of Stuart Bowen involves possible electronic tampering, including alleged efforts by the inspector general to go through e-mails of employees in his office, two officials close to the inquiry said Thursday. It is being handled by the FBI's Washington field office, according to law enforcement officials, who like the first officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
According to one of the officials close to the investigation, the FBI is looking into several issues of possible fraud and abuse and has interviewed a number of former and current employees — some two or three times. A grand jury has been impaneled, and has issued subpoenas for documents.
The official said that in addition to the allegations involving Bowen accessing employee e-mails, the FBI is also looking into whether Bowen and his deputy, Ginger Cruz, may have inappropriately used taxpayer funds to pay their legal expenses associated with an administrative investigation that began in 2006.
In addition, the FBI probe may also review whether Bowen misled investigators about the cost of an expensive book project about the special inspector general's activities in Iraq, which is being put together by his office.
A spokeswoman for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said nobody in the office had been notified of any FBI investigation.
"I can neither confirm or deny the existence of any investigation. However, no SIGIR official has received notice that they are the subject or target of a criminal investigation," SIGIR spokeswoman Kristine Belisle said.
Belisle also released a copy of a memo written by Bowen that addressed some of the issues raised in the investigation. In the memo, he said the office paid for $32,700 of Cruz's legal fees and none of his own. He said that SIGIR's general counsel determined that some of her fees could be paid by the agency since the administrative review "covered actions taken in her official capacity."
Bowen also issued a broad defense of his office — from its budget and pay policies to employee turnover — and concluded that, "I take seriously the requirement that SIGIR maintain the highest standards of integrity and transparency as we carry out our demanding oversight effort."
Congress Daily, a publication that focuses on Capitol Hill, first reported the FBI's investigation into the matter on its Web site Thursday.
Bowen denied any wrongdoing and also said he had not been notified by the FBI that he was a target, according to the report.
"I am confident that this is going to amount to nothing," Bowen was quoted by Congress Daily.
In May, the White House confirmed that Bowen's office, whose revelations of waste and corruption in Iraq have repeatedly embarrassed the Bush administration, was being investigated by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency after complaints from former employees. The executive branch organization was created to investigate allegations of misconduct by inspectors general at federal agencies.
At the time, the White House rejected suggestions the integrity inquiry was an act of retribution against Bowen, with then-press secretary Tony Snow saying the council was "an independent investigative organization" that did not directly follow the White House's direction.
That investigation, triggered by a lengthy anonymous complaint filed by former staff members, focused on a number of fraud and abuse allegations, as well as descriptions of possible workplace violations, including sexual harassment. It included charges that Bowen's office overstated the amount of savings that it generated in order to justify a budget request and that money was wasted on the book project.
The council's administrative probe is still under way but has been overtaken by the criminal probe.