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Press Releases :: June 14, 2007

Subcommittee Urges Criminal Investigation of NASA General Counsel

(Washington, DC) - The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology urged the Department of Justice today to investigate and possibly prosecute Michael Wholley, the general counsel of NASA, for obstruction of justice and destruction of government records.

Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) and Ranking Member F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) have referred the matter to DOJ for investigation and possible prosecutions.

In their letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Congressmen wrote that Mr. Wholley personally destroyed video records of an April 10 agency meeting between NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and the staff of the Office of the Inspector General with full knowledge that the meeting was relevant to an ongoing Subcommittee investigation.

“It is highly probable that Mr. Wholley intended to obstruct both our investigation and our hearing,” said Chairman Miller. “His actions warrant closer scrutiny given the fact that he holds an office of great legal and ethical responsibility in the federal government, overseeing more than 160 attorneys.”

Ranking Member Sensenbrenner stated that, “Governments functions best openly. The destruction of Federal records, especially records relevant to an active Congressional investigation, can only be construed as an attempt to hide evidence. When public officials feel the need to destroy evidence of their actions, Congress needs to take notice and bring to light whatever it was those officials were trying to hide.”

Mr. Wholley admits destroying all remaining recordings of the controversial April 10 meeting. He told the Subcommittee, “I did not believe it wise to have these in any way become records, subject to release under FOIA [Freedom of Information Act].”

The purpose of the April 10 meeting was to explain NASA’s course of action in response to findings by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency’s (PCIE) that Robert Cobb, the Inspector General for NASA, had abused his authority and lacked an appearance of independence. Prior to the meeting, Mr. Wholley raised concerns that the meeting could reflect poorly on Administrator Griffin.

Click here to read the full text of the letter to the Department of Justice and supporting documents.

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