Thursday, May 23, 2013

Iraq snapshot

 Thursday, May 23, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa and snakes threaten the Iraqi people, US President Barack Obama wishes he could close Guantanamo (he says), Medea Benjamin heckles him, he offers a major speech about how The Drone War and the so-called war on terrorism will continue, IRS official Lois Lerner gets placed on administrative leave, the War on the First Amendment continues, and more.

With US President Barack Obama making statements about the press today, we're again starting with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen.   Today at Fort McNair, Barack declared:

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am 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. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.

He is commander in chief of the US military only.  It is put under civilian control (him) and his actions in that role are subject to civilian oversight.  With regards to the press, the First Amendment is and should be any president's primary concern.  Barack has tried to use ignorance yet again to his favor.  That awful, hideous Geena Davis show (thankfully axed) pimped the notion weekly.  ABC has a real problem with pimping the presidency as commander in chief but I'll bite my tongue before I (again) make someone cry.  (You would have thought decades in journalism would toughen someone up but as a mutual songbird friend noted to me just last week, _____ is still crying over what I wrote about ____ last go round.)

"Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs."  This in the same week that it's revealed the Justice Dept presented Fox News reporter James Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in legal filings to a court of law?

Fox News has compiled a list of some of the public supportive comments that Rosen has received since the revelations.  To no surprise, people like Jake Tapper (CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper) have weighed in and stood up for the rights of the press.  Tapper is someone who works very hard to be fair.  Keith Olbermann, whom I can't stand, is not such a person.  But we'll give even him earned praise for weighing in and showing more awareness and class than I would have expected.  Good for Olbermann for taking a stand on principle.  Michael Isikoff (NBC News) reported yesterday:

 Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

Isikoff also reports that to justify Google turning over Rosen's e-mails, the Justice Dept "'The Reporter did so by employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim's vanity and ego.  Much like an intelligence officer would run a clandestine intelligence source, the Reporter instructed Mr. Kim on a covert communications plan that involved' emails from his gmail account."  When the issue of what Rosen wrote in his e-mails (specifically one sentence) comes up in talks we give, I'm not surprised.  Most people will not have personal contact with the press in their lifetime.   I usually cite one notorious hit piece written on me in the 90s and explain I didn't participate because, despite all the flattering e-mails and letters from the pig, I know journalists do that.  That is how they get their stories.  I'm not faulting them for it (whether they're personal friends of mine or otherwise) but never, ever believe someone attempting to get you on the record is being 100% honest with you in their remarks.  They have a job to do and that's to get the story.  They also need to make you feel comfortable to talk and to feel good about talking. That the Justice Dept -- or, for that matter, Google -- might not grasp that is rather sad.

On the AP attack, the North Jefferson News editorial board observes, "You may be tempted to dismiss as gratuitous wailing the news media’s concern over this serious breach of the constitutional wall between government and the press. But the chilling consequences of  the Justice Department’s overzealous intrusiveness could well impact your ability to know what your government is doing or not doing on your behalf."  Columnist S.E. Cupp (New York Daily News) explains what's at stake:

If you believe we’re better off as a nation knowing the truth about our military operations in Vietnam, as outlined by the Pentagon Papers, or about Watergate and Nixon administration’s break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, or about the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and the Bush administration’s stated reasons for invading Iraq, then you should have serious concerns about the DOJ’s efforts to disrupt the critical relationship between reporters and their sources.

Jordy Yager (The Hill) reports, "A bipartisan group of House lawmakers unveiled a bill on Wednesday that would force the Department of Justice (DOJ) to get a federal court’s approval before seizing records from journalists." The group was US House Reps Ted Poe, John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, Sheila Jackson Lee and Trey Radel.

Today, US President Barack Obama blathered on in that self-justifying way that War Criminals all seem to naturally shift into.  Like many a president on the ropes, he elected to give his speech at a military base, Fort McNair, where he hoped (wrongly) he would be better able to manage the crowd.  The  main topic was The Drone War.

Yesterday, as part of the roll out for today's speech, the Justice Dept's admission of 4 Americans killed by drones in The Drone War suddenly made the news.  As The Progressive's Matthew Rothschild observes in a radio commentary ("Tony Sopranco in the Oval Office") observes today, "And it claims with very little credibility that it didn't mean to kill three of the four which I'm sure provides great comfort and solace to their families."

Admitting to four known murders was seen by some, such as the weak  CCR, as good news  -- as though Barack was the friend you were launching an intervention on and not the man who has, as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes, ordered 316 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, resulting in the deaths of at least 197 children.   In a speech of nearly 6,500 words (I count 6,494),  he never noted what Alice K. Ross (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) reported earlier this month, that a Pakistan Peshawar High Court had ruled that these Drone Strikes were "criminal offences," a "war crime," a "blatant violation of basic human rights" and that the judge called for the United Nations Security Council to step in.

Though he spent a great deal of time making glib remarks about other countries, he never noted that the US had popularized The Drone War and made it an 'acceptable choice' for other countries, or that the US was providing drones with kill capacity to other countries.  He never acknowledged, for example, Nathalie Guibert (Le Monde) report, from earlier this week, that France will be purchasing  drones from the US --  two Reaper drones which will have to be 'European-ized' due to the fact that the drones are illegal as is in Europe. Germany has already spent $400 million to purchase several drones from Northrop Grunman Corporation.

Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) offers this take of today's speech, "But if the speech is remembered for anything years hence it will be as the moment when the president declared 'The war on terrorism is dead! long live the open-ended game of whack-a-mole against diffuse networks!'  Yes, that's right. Obama has rhetorically put to bed the frankly silly GWOT terminology -- while obliquely calling for years of low-grade conflict."

Barack's nearly 6500 words included:

From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation --  and world -- that we leave to our children.  So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.

"We" did not make a decision on The Drone War, no vote from the American people was sought, no judicial review of The Drone War took place and, until last month's Senate hearing, there has been no little Congressional acknowledgment, let alone review.  And on that US Senate hearing last month?  Alice K. Ross (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) observed that "the government [White House] refused to send a representative to yesterday's hearing."

At the heart of the objection to what Barack has done is the US legal concept that a democracy does not allow any one person to be judge, jury and executioner.  But that's what Barack has done and been as he has overseen The Drone War. 

 He had the audacity to invoke the phrase "rule of law" twice in his speech early on -- once to take a swipe at his predecessor, once to praise himself.  Rule of law does not allow one person to be judge, jury and executioner.  Rule of law has not been followed in The Drone War.  The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments Due Process Clauses have been ignored and broken.

He has ignored rule of law and the notion of democratic consent.  He has completely confused his role and the powers granted the office by the US Constitution as evidenced by his ridiculous assertions such as,  "For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives."  You are commander in chief of the US military.  You are not allowed to start a war, only Congress is.

Yes, Barack's administration made very clear in statements to the press that that had no respect for The War Powers Act but what Barack's actions with regards to The Drone War have made clear is that he has no understanding of what the Constitution allows a president to do or what it does not allow a president to do.  Either he has no understanding or just doesn't respect the Constitution.  He is not the commander in chief of the United States.  That title applies to his position over the military only.  As a person who lectured on the Constitution to college students, he should be aware of that fact.

In addition to not being commander in chief of the American people, his role as commander in chief is not supreme.  The US is not a military junta.  We have civilian control of the military which includes oversight of all actions built into the Constitution -- and that includes oversight of anyone in the Oval Office invoking the title commander in chief.

Terming it a "rebranding of the Bush era policies with some legalize," Jeremy Scahill shared his impression of the speech with Jake Tapper (The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN) noting, "But effectively Obama has declared the war a battlefield and reserves the right to drone-bomb countries in pursuit of people against whom we may not even have direct evidence or that we're not seeking any indictments against."

In addition, as Julie Pace and Lara Jakes (AP) point out, the CIA controls the Yemen 'front' in The Drone War.  The Central Intelligence Agency -- like the Justice Dept -- is not part of the military.  Invoking 'commander in chief' with regards to his interaction and orders to the CIA is clearly violating "the chain of command" and militarizing a civilian agency, as well as disregarding the Constitution.  Before an e-mail comes in -- and some foolish people will -- the CIA is not needed by the military.  The military has intelligence units.  If you're unaware of them, for starters, you're unaware of how they were used to spy on American protesters during Vietnam.  But, for example, the US Army alone has MI, the Military Intelligence Corps, its own branch of the Army.

As Peter Finn and Julie Tate (Washington Post) emphasize in their report, Barack's remarks also included Guantanamo.  BBC News headlines their report "Obama offers a promise on Guantanamo but no direction."

Whack-a-mole used by Dan Muphy earlier?  I assume we all know the term, Senator John McCain popularized it in his criticism of the Iraq War as late as 2008.  But that was five years ago.  It refers to a game where there are all these holes, you have a hammer and mole pops its head out of one hole, you try to hit (and usually miss) and then it's popping out of another hole.  Guantanamo is not explained at all anymore.  I'm surprised by that.  A friend at NPR asked for a link to Dina Temple-Raston's report on the Guantanamo Bay prison that Temple-Raston did this week for All Things Considered.  There's the link but there's no explanation what Guantanamo is (American's concentration camp).

That was begun in January 2002.  Eleven-years-ago, there are people who have become adults during that time.  A basic synopsis is needed.  Bully Boy Bush began detaining -- widely detaining -- prisoners who had never been before court (still haven't) at a prison on Guantanamo Bay Naval Base -- which is in Cuba (on a piece of land leased or 'leased' by the US government).  Under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Hatian and Cuban refugees were housed there.  Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Bully Boy Bush ordered the round up of many Muslims and others in this country.  They were targeted, many were disappeared.  Some were sent to home countries, some were lost in the 'legal system.'  Some were sent to the Guantanamo prison.  In addition, the US has added to that prison population 'enemy combatants.'  The people in Guantanamo, some of whom have been there since 2002, are prisoners.  The Bully Boy Bush administration termed them -- and the press went alone -- "detainees."  As if they're doing a brief trip through Customs before hailing a taxi?

They're prisoners.  The US Supreme Court has noted the prison is under US control and jurisdiction which means rule of law -- Due Process -- applies.  This has not led to trials -- not even military tribunals.  By 2006, calls for closing the prison were being made by Amnesty International, the United Nations, the European Union and many others.  A year later, they were joined by then-Senator Barack Obama who was campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Barack proclaimed August 10, 2007, "As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions."

That wasn't a surprise.  In a June 3, 2007 debate of contenders for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Barack declared, in a response to a question about military action to stop a genocide, "Second point, our legitimacy is reduced when we've got a Guantanamo that is open, when we suspend habeas corpus. Those kinds of things erode our moral claims that we are acting on behalf of broader universal principles, and that's one of the reasons why those kinds of issues are so important." He received the party's nomination.  Therefore, as Matthew Boyle (Daily Caller) has pointed out, the Democrat Party Platform for 2008 included, "We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years."

And yet, in four years, as president, he never closed it.  He had a lot of excuses.  But he never closed it.  Had he not been re-elected to a second term, he wouldn't have a chance now as a 'do-over.'

100 prisoners are currently on a hunger strike in Guantanamo.  Amy Davidson (The New Yorker) explained earlier this month that many are being forced fed by US personnel who are "pulling them into rooms where they are strapped to chairs and have rubber tubes stuck into their noses and snaked down to their stomachs, then pumping in a can’s worth of a liquid nutritional supplement."  Davidson noted that 100 was the military number and that the number striking may be even larger.  Last Friday, Al Jazeera reported (link is text and video) the hunger strike had reached its 100th day (and that 102 prisoners were taking part).  They quoted the Secretary-General of the World Medical Association, Dr. Otmar Kloiber, stating force-feeding the prisoners was "degrading and inhuman." May 2nd, Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg addressed the hunger strike with Renee Montagne on Morning Edition (NPR).   Rosenberg, who's long covered the story, explained the hunger strike:

As best as I can tell, relations started deteriorating around the first of the year, when a new guard force arrived at the communal camps. We had a first-ever episode of rubber bullets being shot into the showcase camp. We had a shakedown of the cells that the prisoner's lawyers said had been more invasive than in years. And then the prisoners covered up their cameras and blinded the guards. So April 13th, the troops stormed the communal camp and locked everybody into an individual cell. Once that happened, the hunger strike took off, and we now have 100 men refusing to eat.

She did more than that, she noted that despite the claims that Congress had tied his hands, Barack did have the power to release the Guantanamo prisoners, "Congress has imposed hurdles on transfers and releases of detainees. But they have left a little wiggle room if the secretary of defense will certify that someone is approved for transfer. If the president uses his executive authority to instruct the secretary of defense to undertake certification, we could see some detainees leaving again.As Amy Davidson has noted, of the 166 prisoners, 86 have been cleared for release and could be released by the process Rosenberg is outlining.  That would get over half the prisoners out of Guantanamo.  Tat could have been done yesterday, could have been done last week, could have been done last year, could have been . . .

Instead of recognizing that fact, Barack, in his speech today, once again pretended that Congress was preventing anyone from leaving Guantanamo.  

US President Barack Obama: I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries.

Medea Benjamin:  86 are cleared already! Release them today!

US President Barack Obama:  Where appropriate we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system.  And we will insist that judicial review be available to every detainee -

Medea Benjamin:  It's --

US President Barack Obama:  Now, ma'am, let me finish.  Let me finish.  Let me finish, ma'am. This is part of free speech.  You being able to speak.  But also you listening and me being able to speak.

Flaunting their great ignorance, his howler monkeys applauded.  No, free speech does not include that Barack gets to "finish."  He wasn't interested in the woman finishing -- and doesn't that say it all?  Or, as Gilda Radner once put it on Saturday Night Live, "You selfish porkface, now I'll never be satisfied."  But the Constitution does not have a clause allowing anyone the right to finish.  Barack is such an idiot and the encouragement of this stupidity by the Cult of St. Barack goes a long way towards explaining why the administration is currently up to the neck in scandals.

El Paso Inc notes Barack also referred to the 68-year-old Medea Benjamin as "young lady."  I guess we should be grateful he didn't call her "sweetie" or  "best looking" or suggest that "periodically when she's feeling down . . ."

It's a historic moment for Medea Benjamin and CODEPINK -- it only took them five years to confront President Barack Obama.  In 2008, as Medea's co-founder Jodie Evans was bundling billions for Barack's campaign (and forgetting to reveal it to the rank and file in CODEPINK), she and Medea ordered 'bird dogging' of Barack's chief rival in the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination Hillary Clinton.  They attacked Hillary repeatedly, busting up one event after another.  They never did the same to Barack, not even after he was elected.  Some argued that CODEPINK was afraid to confront a bi-racial man.  That argument holds no water because they never worried how racist it might look for the various White women attacking African-American Condi Rice repeatedly in public.  No, they didn't attack him or hold him to any standard because they elected him, they used their organization to destroy his rivals and to put him into office.  Whether today was a sign that the group had rediscovered their ethics or just Medea personally responding to the charges that CODEPINK has one set of standards for men and another for women and the recent outcry over Medea's written characterization of rape as "sex" (see here and here for two examples of the backlash to her inane and offensive characterization), we'll have to wait and see.

Please note, NPR has a transcript of the speech and audio here.

The President of the United States didn't forget Iraq.  In addition to the citation noted above, he also declared, "And so our nation went to war. We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won't review the full history. What’s clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. This carried grave consequences for our fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and -- to this day -- our interests in a vital region."  He won't review the full history here or ever -- not while he's in the White House.  He went on to say, "We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home."  Which I guess is an improvement on the lie that all US troops left.

But the ended war?  Then why he did send another Special Ops unit into Iraq last fall?  Ended the war?  Is the increased violence (resulting from the illegal war and Barack's insistence that Nouri al-Maliki remain prime ministers even after Iraqi voters decreed otherwise in the 2010 elections) a sign of a war ended?

Violence continued today in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency notes a series of armed attacks in Falluja which claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers and eighteen soldiers and Sahwas injured, a Baghdad armed attack left 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and five more injured, and a Falluja attack left two bystanders (woman and man) injuredAll Iraq News notes that "the driver of the dean of Kirkuk Law College" was found dead "shot in the chest" today in Kirkuk.  Alsumaria adds a Tikrit bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and four more were left injured, an Abu Ghraib bombing injured one Sahwa, and 1 person was shot dead in a Mosul marketMu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "In the eastern province of Diyala, three people were killed and two wounded in a bomb explosion at a mobile phone shop in the town of Kanaan near Diyala's capital of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua."

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 640 violent deaths so far this month.  But Barack insists the war has ended?

My name is Penny Evans and I've just gone twenty-one
A young widow in the war that's being fought in Vietnam
And I have two infant daughters, I thank God I have no sons
Now they say the war is over but I think it's just begun
-- Melanie's version of "The Ballad of Penny Evans" used as an intro to her composition "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)"  -- "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)" first appears on her Leftover Wine album.

The Economist notes today: 

Three years after he formed his present coalition government, Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, a Shia, still has no defence or interior minister. He has responded by replacing many of his senior security men. That is unlikely to make a big difference.
The residents of many Sunni districts in Baghdad and in cities in Anbar have been locked in by army roadblocks and prevented from moving freely. The government fears armed gangs infiltrating from Anbar and talks of reinforcing a trench around all of Baghdad. The capital is again becoming like a fortress. Many parts of Iraq are still ruled under emergency measures imposed by America after its invasion; they have stayed in force since American troops left at the end of 2011.

AFP observes today, "Resentful of their treatment by the government of the Shiite prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, Iraq's minority Sunnis have been protesting since December with demands that range from repealing laws seen as penalising their minority sect to forming their own autonomous region, akin to that run by the Kurds in the north." Amnesty International's State of the World report was released today.  We will cover it tomorrow.   Michael Jansen has long reported on Iraq.  We've noted her work most often for the Irish Times.  She has a report for Gulf Today on the violence:

 Maliki has said he is ready to consider the establishment of an autonomous Sunni region if it emerges through legal procedures. However, since he was reappointed to the top post in 2010, he has made many promises to the Sunnis, particularly on power-sharing, but has failed to deliver.
Instead, he has prosecuted Sunni Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi for allegedly operating death squads; forced Finance Minister Rafi Issawi, another Sunni, from office; and refused to pay salaries and pensions to Sunni “Awakening” fighters who helped contain Al Qaeda during the 2007 US “surge” campaign. Consequently, Maliki is not trusted by the Sunni community.
Instead of dealing with the Sunni protest movement, Maliki has accused it of both attempting to revive Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and being a tool of Al Qaeda. Tribal leaders have been targeted for kidnapping and arrest by government forces, commanded by Maliki who holds both the defence and interior portfolios as well as the premiership.

Writing on the topic for The National, Hadeel Al Sayegh observes:

Eighty-six people died on Monday; it was the bloodiest and deadliest day of the year.
Monday's bombings have triggered feelings of resentment and hate on both sides. The words "sectarian war" are now frequently being used to describe the violence.
Sunni Iraqis are fighting for their rights, which are completely legitimate. But a select few have carried flags of Saddam Hussain's regime during the demonstrations, losing them legitimacy in the eyes of Shias, who are worried about a returning Baathist tide to return under the cloak of Al Qaeda.
Making matters worse, the truth is unclear. Every Iraqi channel - owned by their various political parties - portrays a different perspective on the story, casting blame in different directions.
"Baghdad is burning," my mother said as she wept and watched the developments unfold from Abu Dhabi. My mother - and all the Iraqis in the neighbourhood - have become addicted to watching the toxic and deadly events in Iraq.

 If the bombs and bullets don't kill you, the snakes just might.  Al Arabiya reports (link is text and video):

A sudden spate of snake attacks has citizens in Sayid Dkheel, a city in southern Iraq in a “dangerous” situation.
Large numbers of deadly snakes have and continue to invade the city as a rise in weather temperature sees them looking for a cooler spot to live.

Equally dangerous are armed thugs who threaten the Iraqi people.    National Iraqi News Agency reports that the Motahedoon Coalition has issued a statement stating that the government is supporting armed militias.  (Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi heads this coalition.) This follows NINA reporting, "Sheikh Mohammad al-Hayes, member of Anbar Salvation Council, announced two days grace for Anbar sitters before handing over the killers of five military."  He is a member of Sahwa -- the ones who gave up their beliefs when the US tossed $300 a month at each one of them.  They are now threatening the Iraqi people.  If someone has been killed, that's a matter for the police to investigate and armed thugs like Sahwa should be arrested for publicly threatening Iraqi citizens -- especially ones engaged in the exercise of their Constitutional rights.  If Iraq had a real leader, Sahwa would have been disbanded and kicked to the curb today.

The US government also has a lack of leadership.   Yesterday the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the IRS scandal.  We covered it in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing," Wally covered it in "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)" and Ava covered it in "Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)."  The Washington Post editorial board asks this evening:

 WHY DIDN’T Congress know earlier that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny? In days of hearings, lawmakers have tried to get a satisfactory answer from witnesses under oath. They haven’t succeeded.
According to a Treasury Department inspector general’s report, Lois Lerner, a mid-level IRS manager, learned in 2011 that her division had flagged applications for tax-exempt status that had come from organizations with “tea party” and similar terms in their titles. She told her employees to stop, which they did, but then they resumed some months later. When members of Congress later asked questions about the scrutiny some conservative groups were getting, why didn’t she reveal this history?

IRS official Lerner, whose salary is paid by the US taxpayer, appeared yesterday before the House Committee, the Congress, the people's representatives and announced she was pleading the Fifth Amendment (to avoid self-incrimination) about what she had done in her government job.  In their comedic joint-post this morning ("Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!"), Cedric and Wally noted future employment opportunities for Lerner could include:





Lerner may need to begin exploring those opportunities.  Joseph Tanfani (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Lerner, who has been with the IRS for 12 years, was head of the IRS office of exempt organizations, the unit that is tasked with policing charities and other nonprofits that get tax-exempt status. She has been placed on administrative leave, according to a congressional source who asked not to be identified."  Stephanie Condon and Walt Cronkite (CBS News) add, "Thursday afternoon, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Government Affairs investigations subcommittee, called on Daniel Werfel, the new acting IRS commissioner, 'to suspend immediately Lois Lerner from her office as Director of the Office of Exempt Organizations'."  Senator Levin's office issued the following:

Senators Levin and McCain Call for Removal of IRS Official from Office

Thursday, May 23, 2013
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, today sent the following letter to Daniel Werfel, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging him “to suspend immediately Lois Lerner from her office as Director of the Office of Exempt Organizations at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)”:
May 23, 2013

Mr. Daniel Werfel
Acting Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20224

Dear Acting Commissioner Werfel:
We are writing to urge you to suspend immediately Lois Lerner from her office as Director of the Office of Exempt Organizations at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). We believe that Ms. Lerner failed to disclose crucial information concerning the IRS’s inappropriate targeting of some conservative 501(c)(4) organizations during the course of a Subcommittee investigation into how the IRS enforces the 501(c)(4) law, leading to an incomplete account of the full operations of her unit.
Since March of last year, the Subcommittee has been examining whether the IRS adequately and appropriately enforces tax code provisions and implementing regulations regarding the extent to which tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups may engage in political campaign activity. The Subcommittee asked the IRS why it was not enforcing the 501(c)(4) statute which states that social welfare organizations should be used “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” and instead enforcing the more lenient IRS regulation which states that a social welfare organization may be used “primarily” for social welfare. It also asked the IRS about how they reviewed applications filed by certain Democratic and Republican leaning 501(c)(4)s. Our investigation has included a year’s worth of correspondence between the Subcommittee and the IRS, as well as document productions and repeated consultations with IRS staff.
On April 30, 2013, Ms. Lerner and seven IRS colleagues spent six-hours being interviewed, on a bipartisan basis, by Subcommittee staff. That interview covered, among other topics, how the IRS determines which groups to review, what actions are taken in connection with the IRS reviews, and how the laws and regulations are used to examine those groups. Ms. Lerner failed to disclose the internal controversy over the search terms used by the Cincinnati office to identify 501(c)(4) groups for further review, the actions taken by that office in reviewing the identified groups, the investigation and imminent findings by the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA); and TIGTA’s conclusion that the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to target Tea Party and other conservative groups. Ms. Lerner also failed to disclose that she was fully aware of these issues as early as June 2011, and, according to TIGTA, had been personally involved in reviewing questionable actions taken by the Cincinnati office.
Given the serious failure by Ms. Lerner to disclose to this Subcommittee key information on topics that the Subcommittee was investigating, we have lost confidence in her ability to fulfill her duties as Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS. Ms. Lerner’s continued tenure in the office she holds, where she is responsible for overseeing 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations, would erode public trust and confidence in the IRS and its professional integrity. We believe that the immediate removal of Ms. Lerner from office would be a vital step in helping to restore public trust in the agency.

John McCain
Carl Levin

 matthew rothschild

 the christian science monitor