American Law Division opinion of Rockwell plea bargain at Rocky Flats

July 22, 1992 American Law Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., analysis of investigative jurisdiction of House, Science, Space and Technology Committee with respect to Rockwell International Corporation plea bargain.

The Congressional jurisdiction to inquire into the DOJ resolution of the plea bargain with Rockwell International. Congressman Howard Wolpe’s Sub-Committee sought the linked legal opinion.

“In sum, then, a substantial case can be made that House Rules and past Committee oversight and legislative activities support the preliminary investigation into the DOJ resolution of the Rocky Flats proceeding. The foregoing review of oversight and legislative actions of the Committee covering a period of twelve years underlines a consistent recognition of Committee jurisdiction where the focus has been on oversight of management and operational concerns. In those circumstances it has not mattered that an inquiry or proposed legislation encompassed both military and non-military R&D. The idea of significant failure of institutional control and supervision by a major government contractor and its sponsoring agency divorced from individual responsibility may well have a legal basis of distinction in the application of the criminal laws, but it would not appear to have had the effect of foreclosing inquiry by a jurisdictional committee of possible past and future maladministration. The precedents reviewed above indicate no rigid line of prohibition for the Science Committee to inquire into nonmilitary R&D when they occur at military facilities. Nor are we aware of precedent foreclosing the Committee from inquiring with respect to the qualifications of a major contractor operating at agency under its unquestioned jurisdiction — Rockwell at NASA — and seeking information as to those qualifications at another agency where its general jurisdiction is similarly established.”

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