Cost of Surveillance: What the IRS Scandal Means for NSA Snooping

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
07/22/2013
       
Cost of Surveillance: What the IRS Scandal Means for NSA Snooping

Revelations that the IRS has thoroughly politicized its use of taxpayer information has ominous implications for the NSA's attempts to collect a broader spectrum of data on Americans.

Revelations that the IRS has thoroughly politicized its use of taxpayer information has ominous implications for the National Security Agency's attempts to collect a broader spectrum of data on American citizens. 

The IRS scandal has expanded from its original focus upon the non-profit office in Cincinnati to presidentially appointed officials in Washington, and from the delay of Tea Party-related non-profit applications for 501(c)4 status to the release of tax information on political candidates.

Obama Appointee Supervised Tea Party Non-Profit Applications

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform reported July 17 that “testimony from career IRS officials in Washington, D.C. that Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division Lois Lerner overruled the judgment of a career Washington, D.C. IRS lawyer and ordered Tea Party cases to go through a multi-layer review that included her senior advisor and the IRS Chief Counsel’s office. The IRS Chief Counsel’s office is led by William Wilkins, one of two Obama Administration political appointees at the IRS.”

Lerner had pleaded her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when she refused to testify before Congress on the IRS scandal May 22. The senior tax attorney the committee referred to is Carter Hull, who has 47 years of experience on the IRS staff. Hull testified that he had never known 501(c)4 tax-exempt applications to be taken from the field offices to be reviewed in Washington, and that the Tea Party tax-exempt applications cases would be reviewed by the IRS Chief Counsel's office.

Hull's testimony contradicts Obama administration talking points for the past two months that the IRS scandal was limited to a few rogue agents in the Cincinnati office. White House Press spokesman Jay Carney had stressed in a May 20 briefing that the Obama administration had “found no evidence that anyone outside of the IRS had any involvement in the inappropriate scrutinizing of conservative groups who were applying for tax exempt status” and that IRS bias against conservative Tea Party groups was limited to “line IRS employees improperly scrutinizing what are known as 501(c)(4) organizations by using words such as 'tea party' and 'patriot.'” In the face of the scandal in which conservative Tea Party groups were targeted by the tax collection arm of the Federal government, the IRS continued to claim that “the IRS has found no indication of political bias.”

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