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Key Lawmakers Urge Criminal Probe Of NASA General Counsel

By | June 18, 2007

      Two key lawmakers urged the Department of Justice to investigate and possibly prosecute NASA General Counsel Michael Wholley for obstruction of justice and destruction of government records.

      Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee investigations and oversight subcommittee, and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the ranking Republican on the panel, referred the matter to the Department of Justice for investigation and possible prosecutions.

      Wholley, who appeared as a witness last month before the legislators, testified about a meeting April 10 between staff of NASA Inspector General Robert “Moose” Cobb, where staff heard from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

      In his testimony, Wholley said the meeting wasn’t supposed to be video recorded, but it was. Upon discovering this, Wholley and Paul Morrell, NASA chief of staff, were taken aback, according to Wholley, who said he destroyed the CD recordings in his hands and discarded them to prevent them from becoming public records subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, May 28, 2007, page 5.)

      Miller and Sensenbrenner expressed shock during the subcommittee hearing that Wholley would do such a thing, pointing out that Wholley knew full well at the time that the subcommittee was investing this issue and would wish to view the recordings.

      In a four-page letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Miller and Sensenbrenner repeated that point, assailing Wholley for destroying the records.

      “Mr. Wholley destroyed the CDs with full knowledge that the House Science and Technology Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation were examining all aspects of the investigation into allegations against Mr. Cobb and NASA’s response to that investigation,” the lawmakers stated in the letter to Gonzales. “Mr. Wholley also knew that a congressional hearing was possible.”

      Further, the lawmakers continued, Wholley’s own words admitting he destroyed the CDs, and why, made clear he wished “to obstruct both our investigation and our hearing, which was held” June 7.

      Because Wholley destroyed recordings of the meeting, that forced congressional staffers to spend huge amounts of time interviewing people and attempting to reconstruct the meeting, the lawmakers complained.

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