Everything coming out of the White House these days is begging for some kind of independent investigation. But what does that even mean? If I read that X politician or troubling scenario is being independently investigated, what makes them "independent"? Assume that this supposed independence is legitimate and not some publicity farce.

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    Assume that this supposed independence is legitimate and not some publicity farce In theory yes, but as with everything in politics people will debate it to the end of time. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 16:50
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    Of course. But Stack Exchange lets me strip things down to theory. Life is complicated enough, so why not enjoy that privilege once in a while?
    – JesseTG
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:00
  • I believe (But not enough to make it an answer) it's that the investigators don't have to answer directly to anyone in congress. In otherwords, they're given free reign to do the investigation how they see fit.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:10
  • "these days" only? That's... mightly selective viewpoint.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:00
  • Nobody said anything about "only".
    – JesseTG
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


The key for an independent investigation is that the investigators must have no official ties to the people they are investigating. This is commonly used if there is a suspicious of systemic issues at an institution: if everything at an institution is broken, then the investigation will be too. Therefore in cases like this an outside group will be brought in and by virtue of being from the outside and reporting outside the system it will not be influenced by internal politics.

A recent example of this is the accusations of Uber's systemic culture of sexual harassment. Uber has a legal and HR team that can do this investigation, but since they are part of the accused any such investigation would be immediately tainted. As such, Uber brought in Eric Holder (former AG of the US) to do the investigation. He Holder is outside of Uber and does not report to them, therefore he should not be influenced by any internal issues.

With all that being said, we're all human and influences can reach far (especially in government). The true independence of any investigation can always be called into question, so its ultimately up to you to judge if you believe its objectivity.

  • No official ties meaning...? The government is pretty big, would this outside group be foreign-led, from the private sector, or what?
    – JesseTG
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:03
  • @JesseTG There is no law on what it must be, but foreign-led would be pretty rare, especially for government investigations. Otherwise it depends. There have been cases of people coming in from the private side. There are other cases of members from different parts of the government doing the investigation. Plus you can have a mix of the two. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:11
  • I don't think this is exactly it. This is more about conflict of interest. I believe independent in this context means they don't have to 'answer directly to the boss'...meaning they get to run the investigation as they see fit (whereas HR would have to run it as the company sees fit).
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:11
  • @blip I believe that is what my answer is saying. Outside means you don't report to the company. by virtue of being from the outside and **reporting outside the system** Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:13
  • @DavidGrinberg yea, that makes sense.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:23

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