...Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.
“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.
Read the Article
...No one has been fired over this scandal. If Paz actually did get sacked, she would be the first… and the agency’s reluctance to disclose her fate means they’re not exactly making an example out of her. Carter Hull is retiring gracefully later this summer. Joseph Grant was also allowed to retire without censure or reprimand. The official IRS announcement of his departure, issued on May 16, read as follows:
Joseph Grant, Commissioner of Tax Exempt/Government Entities Division, has announced his plans to retire on June 3rd. Before this position Joseph was the Deputy Commissioner, TE/GE. He joined the IRS in August 2005, as Director of the EP Rulings & Agreements division, became the Director of Employee Plans in 2006, and became TE/GE Deputy Commissioner in 2007. Before that, he was the Chief Operating Officer and a Deputy Executive Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Joseph also served on the staff of the Oversight and Social Security subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Nothing about unacceptable behavior, abuse of power, or political dirty tricks in there! As Johnson mentioned, Grant became head of his department only a week before his retirement was announced. His predecessor, Sara Hall Ingram – who was in charge while that mighty legion of “renegade low-level employees” was busy suppressing the Tea Party vote – was promoted to head of the ObamaCare enforcement division.
Acting IRS Commissioner Steve “Customer Service” Miller was a temporary appointee whose term expired on schedule – he didn’t get sacked or punished. And of course, the infamous Lois Lerner is currently enjoying a paid holiday at taxpayer expense. She didn’t lose her job, and in fact she refused to resign when Miller supposedly asked her to – a request we only know about through a third party, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of the Finance Committee.
I think what Johnson is driving at in her National Review post on Holly Paz is that a few senior officials in D.C. are experiencing some career disruption, which is incompatible with the fairy tale about a few wild and crazy cubicle gnomes in the sub-levels of the Cincinnati office taking Obama’s anti-Tea Party rhetoric too seriously. But in truth, there has been no great push to hold anyone truly accountable, or clean house to prevent such abuses from occurring again. There was some early noise from...Obama about how the politicized abuse of power was unacceptable, but he’s clearly not angry about it. Most importantly, he’s not doing anything to get to the bottom of it. If he sends high-level heads rolling, it would be an admission of wrongdoing… and it might motivate some of the unemployed, publicly humiliated officials to retaliate by telling stories the Administration would rather keep buried. Give it another month, and the White House will begin referring to the story as “old news,” which only bloodthirsty partisans could still be upset about.
The most benign explanation for the IRS scandal is that a bunch of agents and supervisors spontaneously decided to abuse their authority for political ends, to help their beloved President and punish his enemies, while higher officials either remained clueless or looked the other way. If that was true, you would think a lot of people involved would be named, shamed, and cut loose, to restore public confidence in the agency. Instead, we’re left to wonder how many other agencies are filled with Obama loyalists who might “spontaneously” decide to use confidential information for political purposes. Do you suppose anyone like that works for the National Security Agency?
by Ed Morrissey
Meet Karen Kenney, the first in what will undoubtedly be a parade of victims of the intimidation tactics of the IRS aimed at conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Twitchy captures Kenney’s statement and the immediate Twitter reaction to it. With President Obama attempting to pre-empt the hearing with an odd live statement on judicial nominations — usually a matter left to press releases — coverage of the hearing has been spotty, but this needs to be seen and read in full:
Just how intimidating was this effort? Sixteen months after applying, SFVP finally heard from the IRS on its application, with a deadline cast in ominous tones:
In October 2010, the San Fernando Valley Patriots, a not-for-profit corporation in California, applied with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 501(c) 4 status as a tax-exemptsocial welfare organization. We were then and remain a “tea party” group affiliated with the national Tea Party Patriots.
Kenney says her personal favorite among the raft of questions was #33, which demanded that the applicants incriminate themselves:
My personal favorite was question No. 33, which in relation to protests asked for a listing of our “committed violations of local ordinances, breaches of public order or arrests” then requested
We’re going to be hearing from plenty of victims, and Obama can’t call a press conference every day to suck away the coverage.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) revealed new testimony from IRS employees on CNN's State of The Union on Sunday. According to transcribed excerpts released by the Committee, a Cincinnati IRS employee made it clear they were told by Washington, D.C. personnel to give extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups:
Q: In early 2010, was there a time when you became aware of applications that referenced Tea Party or other conservative groups?
A more senior IRS Cincinnati employee complained about micromanagement from D.C.:
Q: But you specifically recall that the BOLO terms included "Tea Party?"
Twenty-five Tea Party groups are suing the IRS, Attorney General Eric Holder and senior IRS officials, claiming the Obama administration unlawfully targeted their groups because of their political beliefs.
The Oversight Committee will be conducting hearings this week focusing on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report on excessive IRS conference spending and abuses of taxpayer dollars. Chairman Issa sent a letter to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman in April, 2012 regarding the agency's bloated spending habits. According to the Committee, the IRS spent $50 million on at least 220 conferences between 2010 and 2012.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that Google Inc. must comply with the FBI's warrantless demands for customer data, rejecting the company's argument that the government's practice of issuing so-called national security letters to telecommunication companies, Internet service providers and banks and others was unconstitutional and unnecessary.
FBI counter-terrorism agents began issuing the secret letters, which don't require a judge's approval, after Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Read this story at apnews.myway.com ...
Could the situation at the IRS get any worse? McClatchy joins CBS News in postulating that the scandal may well expand to more than just applications for tax-exempt status. Both news agencies are starting to take complaints about predatory and punitive audits and other actions and put them into a very ugly pattern — and ask some very difficult questions of the Obama administration:
While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
McClatchy includes the case of Catherine Engelbrecht, which CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson co-reported yesterday. That case, of course, goes far beyond the IRS; Engelbrecht’s business got harassed by the FBI, ATF, and OSHA as well, which would mean coordination far above the Treasury Department. They also include the case of an anti-abortion group that was told they couldn’t picket Planned Parenthood locations if they wanted to keep their exemption, and a Nebraska veteran who got hassled in an IRS audit over his donations to his church once he began donating to conservative causes.
That may end up being the undercard next week, however. The House Oversight Committee will hold hearings over the next two weeks to take testimony from the low-level employees in Cincinnati that Lois Lerner and her former bosses Douglas Shulman and Steven Miller tried to turn into scapegoats:
House investigators will interview four Internal Revenue Service employees over the next two weeks, POLITICO has learned.
What will be the likelihood that these five will fall on swords and swear that no one told them to target these groups? I’d put the odds on the low side for that outcome.
John Eastman wants a closer look at an already-known outrage in this scandal, too (via Instapundit):
In March of 2012 the Human Rights Campaign published a confidential tax return of the National Organization for Marriage, which was immediately republished byThe Huffington Post and other liberal news media outlets. The HRC and NOM are the leading national groups on opposing sides of the fight over gay marriage. HRC wants to redefine marriage to make it genderless, while NOM wishes to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The retribution part has already been established. We need to know who ordered it, and how that information got networked.
The former head of the IRS visited the White House more times than any Cabinet member, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller, raising questions about the nature of those visits -- particularly around the time the agency was targeting conservative groups.
The Caller analysis of White House visitor logs showed former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times under the Obama administration.
Even Attorney General Eric Holder, one of Obama's closest allies, visited only 62 times according to the records.
The records may not reflect every single visit, as some officials do not have to sign in every time they come to the White House.
But they could lend weight to concerns voiced by lawmakers at a hearing last week about the frequency of Shulman's White House contact. During the time period when the IRS was singling out Tea Party and other groups for extra vetting -- as they applied for tax-exempt status -- Shulman visited the White House 118 times.
Asked to explain the visits, Shulman gave lawmakers a list of possible reasons.
"The Easter Egg roll with my kids ... questions about the administratibility of tax policy ... our budget, us helping the Department of Education streamline application processes for financial aid," he said.
According to the Caller analysis, no other top official logged more than 100 visits.
Read this story at foxnews.com ...
Wall Street Jounal
The IRS has admitted targeting groups that wanted to speak on issues during the 2012 election season. But did the agency also target tax-exempt groups that opposed Administration policy priorities?
At a House oversight hearing last week, Treasury Inspector General Russell George opened the door on the possibility of more IRS political targeting. Asked by Chairman Darrell Issa whether there were other political criteria that IRS workers had been told to "be on the lookout" for, Mr. George said he could "not give you a definitive answer, sir, at this time. But I certainly will."
Asked about the slow pace of approval, the IRS auditor on the case, Diane Gentry, said the application was taking so long because auditors were supposed to give special scrutiny to groups "connected with Israel." Ms. Marcus says Ms. Gentry further explained that many applications related to Israel had to be sent to "a special unit in D.C. to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies." Z Street filed suit in August 2010 in federal court in Pennsylvania alleging "viewpoint discrimination," and its case has since been moved to Washington, D.C. Ms. Gentry did not return our phone calls.
Read this story at online.wsj.com ...
On Wednesday, House hearings on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) political targeting of conservative groups uncovered a startling revelation about the interview process used to construct the Inspector General’s report: Obama donor-turned-IRS director of tax exempt organizations Holly Paz sat in on 36 of 41 interviews with IRS employees.
“Why was Holly Paz... in almost all of the interviews you conducted?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). “Why would you have someone from the IRS in those meetings? Is that proper protocol?”
“I am unaware of it,” said Inspector General J. Russell George. “This is the first I’ve heard this.”
George then requested time to research the revelation. “This is the first time that I was made aware of this,” said George.
George then clarified he and his agency performed an audit, not an investigation.
“The operative word, Mr. Chairman, is audit,” said George. “It was not conducted as an investigation.”
Still, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) seemed unsettled that Paz was allowed to sit in on the IG’s interviews of IRS employees.
“Usually when you are conducting an investigation—I know this was an audit, I got that—you want to keep your witnesses separate because you’re in search of the truth and you are trying to make sure there’s no advantage of a person hearing what somebody else said,” said Cummings. “That’s pretty standard procedure.”
George ultimately conceded to Cummings that, “in hindsight, given this matter, obviously this seems somewhat unusual. I need to do a little more research.”
Read this story at breitbart.com ...