July 3, 2023 at 10:29 am #96Jonathan BuhacoffKeymaster
The following is an idea for improving government.
An independent Investigative Branch of government works to hold elected officials, appointed officials, government employees, contractors, and the public accountable for following the law. Nobody is “above” or “beyond” the law and the Investigative Branch can investigate alleged violations by anyone, of any rank, including the head of the Executive Branch and the highest appointed officials in that branch, the elected officials in the Legislative Branch and their aids, the highest appointed officials in the Judicial Branch, and the head of the Investigative Branch itself.
The head of the Investigative Branch is required to investigate all allegations. However, due to resource constraints that may occur, it is expected that the head of the Investigative Branch prioritize the work.
The Investigative Branch is uniquely positioned to investigate allegations of corruption and unethical behavior by government officials and contractors, and such investigations should be a high priority.
When power in the Executive Branch is transferred from one political party to another, an independent Investigative Branch is a control to prevent the Executive Branch from abusing its power to 1) stop investigations into allies, and 2) start frivolous investigations into opponents.
The other branches would have no power over the Investigative Branch to demand any investigations be started or cancelled, nor to remove any official or agent of the Investigative Branch from their position, except the impeachment of any officials for committing crimes or corrupt behavior. However, a mere opinion that an official isn’t doing their duty is explicitly not grounds for an impeachment, because that can easily be abused by the Legislative Branch to remove an official for simply exercising their own discretion on what to investigate as is their mandate according to this proposal. To address any opinions of Investigative Branch officials not doing their job — the top official would be replaced in the next election anyway due to term limits, and for any subordinates the top official has the authority to separate them if they are not performing according to expectations.
The Investigative Branch needs additional safeguards against politically motivated investigations (or non-investigations). First, a newly elected official of the Investigative Branch must be prohibited by the constitution from cancelling any ongoing investigations. If a prior elected official started an investigation, and the new elected official doesn’t agree with it, the newly elected official is bound by the duty of the office to continue that investigation. Second, any investigation into an elected official or candidate for office requires the Investigative Branch to form an advisory panel to consider special issues and report on them — however that panel would not have any authority to direct the decision-making of the investigating agent.
The Investigative Branch would have a special office dedicated for receiving and assessing “whistleblower” complaints, which are allegations by a person working for any business organization or government agency about criminal or unethical behavior, or any past, present, or imminent harm to the public.
The Investigative Branch would have a special office dedicated for investigating allegations against its own personnel. It is expected that all personnel and especially the officers and investigators working for the Investigative Branch are law abiding citizens. However, in the event that an employee or contractor of the Investigative Branch is accused of a crime, it is imperative that they are treated the same as anyone else — neither receiving preferential treatment nor harsher treatment. A suspension of work during the investigation should be routine, but the special office for internal investigations must consider the work being done by the person being accused, and whether the allegation itself might be a tool to interfere with or obstruct a lawful investigation, and make a determination.
The head of the Investigative Branch shall maintain an adequate roster of investigators with security clearances, issued by the Investigative Branch itself, who can investigate matters involving classified material. If the Executive Branch attempts to use classification as a means to hide wrongdoing or to hide facts that are embarrassing to the officials in the Executive Branch, the Investigative Branch can traverse such attempts by assigning the case to an individual or team with sufficient clearance. The head and second in command of the Investigative Branch are empowered to access any information available to the head of the Executive Branch during an investigation.
In the United States, at the federal level, the Investigative Branch would include organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
How should the head of the Investigative Branch be appointed?
Option 1. Direct election by the people.
Option 2. The Legislative Branch, comprised of the people’s elected representatives, appoints the head of the Investigative Branch with at least a 2/3 approval. This is important to ensure that representatives from multiple parties agree on the appointment. If this option is used, the potential for deadlock must be addressed. If the Legislative Branch fails to appoint a successor in a timely manner before the end of the term, the second in command of the Investigative Branch becomes the acting head until the Legislative Branch appoints a new head. The acting head can remain in the role as long as a full term, and if a successor still hasn’t been named the new second in command becomes the acting head under the same rule.
Candidates for this office should run on a promise of investigating alleged violations in a non-partisan manner and should have a track record of non-partisan law enforcement work at the federal or state level.
How long should the term be? Please see the term limits topic.
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