The Federal Government's Most Significant Investigations

The scandal. The intrigue. The facts. Brookings Press author Paul Light pushes back the curtain to expose some of the familiar and forgotten government breakdowns and ensuing investigations.

From the Sputnik Launch, to Ku Klux Klan activities, the Enron Collapse, the HIV epidemic, 9/11, plus 95 other investigations—Light provides an in-depth historical tour. Below is Light's list of the 100 most significant investigations of government between 1945 and 2012. 

From Government by Investigation by Paul Light

BOX 2-1. The Federal Government’s Most Significant Investigations,

Pearl Harbor (1945)
World War II procurement fraud (1945)
Agriculture commodity speculation (1947) Communists in Hollywood (1947)
Government reorganization (1947)
Communists in government (1948)
Atomic Energy Commission operations (1949)


Organized crime in America (1950)
Reconstruction Finance Corporation mismanagement (1950)
Bureau of Internal Revenue corruption (1951) Conduct of the Korean War (1951)
Airport safety (1952)
Justice Department operations (1952)
Dixon-Yates power contract (1954)
Federal Housing Administration mismanagement (1954)
Air Force preparedness for the cold war (1956) Campaign finance corruption (1956)
Labor racketeering (1957)
Sherman Adams misconduct (1957)
Sputnik launch (1957)
Drug industry practices (1959)
Munitions lobby (1959)
Quiz show rigging (1959)


Agriculture commodity leasing (1962)
Defense Department stockpiling (1962)
Lobbying by foreign governments (1962)
Military “muzzling” (1962)
Government information management
Kennedy assassination (1963)
State Department security procedures
TFX fighter aircraft contract (1963)
Traffic safety (1965)
Crime in America (1965)
Ku Klux Klan activities (1965)
Conduct of the Vietnam War (1966)
Central Intelligence Agency financing of
private organizations (1967)
Urban riots (1967)
Executive branch reorganization (1969)


Kent State campus unrest (1970)
Justice Department antitrust settlement
Energy shortages (1973)
Watergate (1973)
Nixon pardon (1974)
Intelligence agency abuses (1975)
Welfare fraud (1975)
South Korean lobbying (1977)
General Services Administration
corruption (1978)
Three Mile Island nuclear accident (1979)

Educational quality (1981)
Social Security financing crisis (1981)
Superfund implementation (1981)
Abscam congressional sting (1982)
Bombing of Beirut Marine barracks (1983)
Central America policy (1983)
Strategic missile forces (1983)
Defense Department fraud, waste, and
abuse (1985)
Space shuttle Challenger accident (1986)
Wedtech defense procurement decision
Government response to the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
epidemic (1987)
Savings and loan crisis (1987)
White House Iran-Contra program (1987)
Base closing and realignment (1988)
Indian Affairs corruption (1988)
Government mismanagement (1989)
Housing and Urban Development scandal


Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) and
missing in action (MIAs) (1991)
1980 “October surprise” (1992)
Tobacco industry practices (1993)
U.S. intelligence agencies in the
post–cold war era (1994)
Clinton conduct (1995)
Gulf War syndrome (1995)
Ruby Ridge siege (1995)
Waco Branch Davidian siege (1995)
Whitewater allegations (1995)
Secret arms shipments to Bosnia (1996)
Aviation security and safety in an age of
terrorism (1996)
Internal Revenue Service taxpayer abuse
Technology transfers to China (1997)
1996 campaign finance abuses (1997)
Clinton impeachment (1998)
Preventing terrorist attacks (1998)
Year 2000 technology problem (1998)


Enron collapse (2001)
White House energy task force (2001)
9/11 terrorist attacks (2002)
Conduct of the Iraq War (2003)
Department of Homeland Security
implementation and operations (2003)
Space shuttle Columbia accident (2003)
Abramoff lobbying tactics (2004)
Government response to Hurricane
Katrina (2005)
Steroid abuse in baseball (2005)
Mine safety (2007)
Quality of care for wounded warriors
U.S. attorney firings (2007)
2008 financial collapse (2008)
Stimulus oversight (2009)
Deficit reduction (2010)
Gulf oil spill (2010)
Fast and Furious gun-walking operation
Solyndra Corporation (2011)