Subcommittee Investigates Destruction of Video Records by Senior NASA Officials During IG Probe

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2007


(Washington, DC) -  Members of the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today questioned senior staff at NASA about physically destroying records of a controversial meeting between NASA's Administrator Michael Griffin and Office of the Inspector General staff.

"It is impossible not to assume the worst about what the destroyed DVD showed," said Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. "NASA officials knew perfectly well in advance that the meeting could further compromise the independence of the inspector general's office, people who attended the meeting report that's exactly what happened and NASA officials admit that they destroyed the DVD to keep it from becoming public."

Despite an assurance of independence, Mr. Griffin called an "all hands" meeting of the NASA IG staff on April 10, 2007.  The purpose of the meeting was to dispute the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency's (PCIE) findings that Robert Cobb, the Inspector General for NASA, had abused his authority. On April 2, 2007 Chairman Miller and Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and their Senate counterparts called for the removal of Inspector Cobb based on its investigation of misconduct allegations.

At the staff meeting, Administrator Griffin told the OIG staff, which was the source of most of the allegations against Mr. Cobb, he didn't believe Mr. Cobb had abused his office, lacked integrity or committed any "improprieties."  Mr. Griffin outlined his plan for management training for Mr. Cobb.   

At issue in today's hearing is the conduct of senior NASA officials' handling of the Cobb case during and after the meeting.

Michael Wholley, the NASA General Counsel, intentionally destroyed with his own hands DVDs showing his boss, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, in a compromising meeting with the staff of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).  He didn't check with anyone before he did it. He told Committee staff that he did it to prevent the DVDs from being obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Mr. Wholley is the general counsel for a major federal agency, and has a tremendous responsibility to represent the public interest," said Rep. Miller.  "One of his jobs is to tell people what they don't want to hear, certainly not to participate in the destruction of records he knows are relevant to a congressional investigation."

This is the only known instance of the general counsel for a federal agency admitting to personally destroying agency documents to avoid their disclosure.

Click here for supplemental hearing documents and witness testimony.

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