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Interior Dept. officials may have meddled

May 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A congressional investigator asserted Wednesday that at least four Interior Department officials might have inappropriately interfered in decisions on protecting endangered species.

The four may have put political pressure on lower-ranking employees who were deciding endangered species cases, said an investigator for the Government Accountability Office.

The allegation came during a House hearing on purported interference by Julie MacDonald, an Interior official who resigned last year after the department's inspector general found that she had pressured government scientists to alter their findings about endangered species and leaked information to industry officials.

The Bush administration later reversed seven rulings that had denied endangered species increased protection, saying they had been tainted.

The officials mentioned Wednesday were not accused of wrongdoing per se, but documents studied by the GAO show they had been involved in decisions later found to be tainted by MacDonald, said Robin Nazzaro of the GAO.

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