So, there actually are a couple of things that both of our political parties can agree on. The IRS can’t be trusted to do their jobs and the Attorney General can’t be trusted to do his either. Even more interesting is the fact that just about everyone in the White House can’t figure out what happened or didn’t know what happened or are trying to make it sound like nothing really big happened. I guess no one in this administration has learned a damn thing from the past, because they’re making the same mistakes so many others have – failing to understand that it’s not about the issue, it’s about the cover up.
Nobody likes the IRS. They’re sort of like the dentist. You have to deal with them once in a while, but it usually isn’t a pleasant experience. Then the IRS goes and makes a big public relations mistake by targeting Right-wing groups for a little extra scrutiny under the auspices of the Exempt Organizations department’s criteria for 501(c)(4) status. It doesn’t sound like they care what we think or whether we approve of them at all. They probably don’t but that doesn’t give them the right to run amok, either. This government-run agency which holds us accountable for what we may or may not be liable for in taxes, even to the point of finding us guilty and making us prove our innocence, is now, itself, in the hot seat.
IRS directors, even the President, are handling this thing all wrong. Okay, the president asked for and received the resignation of Commissioner Steven Miller, as if that would mollify Congress’ investigative committees and the American public. Miller’s statements probably made things even worse, especially when he said that a few employees made “foolish mistakes…trying to be more efficient”. We might have accepted the efficiency argument if the delays on these applications had been a little more even-handed. Then, just in case we hadn’t bought the idea completely, we were treated to the same sort of misrepresentations from the director of Exempt Organizations, Lois Lerner.
Ms. Lerner sat down, in front of Congress, gave her statement and then refused to answer any more questions, invoking her Fifth Amendment privileges. Well, hold it right there missy. Ms. Lerner may not be aware of this – one would think that her lawyer might know – but you don’t get to state your case, under oath and then just clam up. Once you’ve opened that Pandora’s box and your mouth, you don’t get to just shut up. Oh no, now you have to answer the questions or face the possibility of being held in contempt. That’s how it would work for you and me. As for Ms. Lerner, heaven only knows. The committee has the choice as to what to do with her and, right now, all she’s received is an administrative leave – a little time off with pay.
What should have been a little scandal has grown as more information has come out about what happened with those applications. At first we were told that it was a few “rogue” IRS employees in the Cincinnati office who, out of boredom or ignorance or bias, decided to play games with certain groups, putting their application on the back burner for as long as three years. Now it seems that it isn’t just a handful of “rogue” folks. An attorney representing a number of the targeted groups has uncovered some letters showing that at least four other offices, including Washington, D.C., participated in the same activities as did Cincinnati. That’s not good, not funny, not fair and not what we expect from an agency whose purpose and sworn duty is to collect revenue and keep our information in trust.
If the problems at the IRS weren’t enough to keep Congress, the media and investigators busy, the Department of Justice, under the control and with the assistance of Attorney General Eric Holder, applied for and received search warrants for the telephone records for reporters from the Associated press and the emails of Fox News’ reporter James Rosen. What the White House was looking for was the source or sources of a leak regarding information’ allegedly dealing with matter of national security – classified information about North Korea. Reading the affidavit, however, you find that the source of the leak was already known. Throughout the 44-page document is the name of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department security contractor.
Apparently Mr. Kim’s indictment wasn’t enough for the DOJ and their quest to get to the bottom of this whole leaky mess. Some of the reporters, and Mr. Rosen in particular, were labeled criminal co-conspirators, who aided and abetted Mr. Kim in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. An accusation like that would make anyone’s hair stand on end. A couple of things really bother me about what the DOJ did. First, I don’t know how or why they chose to include the reporters in this brouhaha. I can’t think of too many journalists who would put our nation, it’s troops and its’ security at risk simply to report a story. Not only is it tantamount to being a lousy American, it would make any future sources a little leery about giving any information in the future. Another thing I don’t understand is what the AG and the DOJ were thinking when they applied for this warrant. Did they really believe that the kind of shoddy and exaggerated information they were giving the judge was something that they could stand behind if push came to shove? I’m very familiar with how warrants work and the first thing you have to do is swear to the judge that what that affidavit contains is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Overstate your information or simply lie, and you’ll find yourself out of work and, just maybe, behind bars. Nobody wants to piss off a judge – not if you ever want your word and your reputation to mean anything again. To top it all off, the warrants couldn’t have been more over reaching. They gave the DOJ unfettered access to the phone records and emails of over one hundred journalists over a two month period. By the way, only six reporters actually worked on the story.
AG Holder says that he’s recusing himself from the investigation and that he doesn’t know what’s going on. I know, we’ve heard that before. The thing is he knew what was going on when it was happening. It’s now come to light that he signed off on the warrant for Rosen’s records. President Obama and his staff are having a problem grappling with it as well, making different statements as the days pass and the issue gets more attention. Two weeks ago, he said that he was making no apologies for the way in which his administration obtained the records from members of the press. A week later, he made this statement, “The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between security and our open society….But a free press is also essential for our democracy. That’s who we are. And I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law.”* I couldn’t agree more. Now, if he’d just impart that bit of wisdom to the members of his administration, we’d all be a whole lot happier.
The President promised that his would be the most open and transparent administration in history. It isn’t looking that way from where I’m sitting. He also said that he heard about both of these issues – the IRS and the AP – by watching the news. I hear about things by watching and reading the news. The President has daily briefings with all sorts of information at his fingertips at any given time and I don’t want to think that he knows about things at the same time I do. Former IRS commissioner Miller said that he didn’t see a need to tell the President about the problems in Cincinnati and elsewhere so as not to distract him. He’s supposed to be “distracted” – that’s somewhere in his job description. I don’t expect him to handle each and every matter that comes across his desk – that’s why he has directors and cabinet members. I would like him to be informed, however, so that he, and all of us aren’t left with a lot of lame stories and even lamer excuses, well after the fact. We deserve more and we have a right to the correct answers. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.
Let’s see, did I leave anything out? Oh, yea – has anybody figured out what happened in Benghazi yet?
* President Barack Obama, speaking at Washington’s National Defense University, May 23, 2013