In recent years, it's become easier for wrongdoers to get away with abusing their government-given power.
The Obama administration has made it increasingly difficult for federal watchdogs to obtain records.
The current law was set up in 1978 following the Watergate scandal. The idea was to install inspectors general at the government agencies and give them the power to investigate any scandals within that agency. Each inspector general was authorized access to all agency records.
But in recent years, agencies have balked at turning over information they deemed confidential, such as grand jury reports, wiretaps, credit reports, and in some cases, emails.
This has disrupted at least 20 investigations of government scandals in the past five years.
Then, in July, the U.S. Department of Justice made things worse.
How the DOJ Made Government Scandal Investigations Harder
The ongoing disputes between the agencies and the watchdogs over access to records led to a series of Justice Department reviews.
On July 20, the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion that "all records" did not necessarily include the "confidential" categories, legitimizing what had been unofficial Obama administration policy.
"This is by far the most aggressive assault on the inspector general concept since the beginning," Paul Light, a New York University professor who has studied the IG system, told The New York Times. "It's the complete evisceration of the concept. You might as well fold them down. They've become defanged."
It's especially galling coming from the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has consistently promised a more transparent government.
"Every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known," President Obama said in a 2009 welcoming message to his senior staff.
But within a year something happened that left those words ringing hollow…