(News & Editorial/ Is it a crime to report criminal or unconstitutional government activities directed against the American public?)
Noonan: A Battering Ram Becomes a Stonewall
The IRS’s leaders refuse to account for the agency’s corruption and abuse.
23 May 2013, The Wall Street Journal.com, By columnist PEGGY NOONAN
Pasted from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323475304578501581991103070.html?mod=hp_opinion
“I don’t know.” “I don’t remember.” “I’m not familiar with that detail.” “It’s not my precise area.” “I’m not familiar with that letter.”
These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable. They’re surrounded by legal and employment protections, they know how to parse a careful response, they know how to blur the essential point of a question in a blizzard of unconnected factoids. They came across as people arrogant enough to target Americans for abuse and harassment and think they’d get away with it.
So what did we learn the past week, and what are the essentials to keep in mind?
We learned the people who ran and run the IRS are not going to help Congress find out what happened in the IRS. We know we haven’t gotten near the bottom of the political corruption of that agency. We do not know who ordered the targeting of conservative groups and individuals, or why, or exactly when it began. We don’t know who executed the orders or directives. We do not know the full scope or extent of the scandal. We don’t know, for instance, how many applicants for tax-exempt status were abused.
[Lois Lerner and her lawyer ]
We know the IRS commissioner wasn’t telling the truth in March 2012, when he testified: “There’s absolutely no targeting.” We have learned that Lois Lerner lied when she claimed she had spontaneously admitted the targeting in a Q-and-A at a Washington meeting. It was part of a spin operation in which she’d planted the question with a friend. We know the tax-exempt bureau Ms. Lerner ran did not simply make mistakes because it was overwhelmed with requests—the targeting began before a surge in applications. And Ms. Lerner did not learn about the targeting in 2012—the IRS audit timeline shows she was briefed in June 2011. She said the targeting was the work of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office. But the Washington Post spoke to an IRS worker there, who said: “Everything comes from the top.”
We know that Lois Lerner this week announced she’d done nothing wrong, and then took the Fifth.
And we know Jay Leno, grown interestingly fearless, said of the new IRS commissioner, “They’re called ‘acting commissioner’ because you have to act like the scandal doesn’t involve the White House.”
But the most important IRS story came not from the hearings but from Mike Huckabee’s program on Fox News Channel. He interviewed and told the story of Catherine Engelbrecht—a nice woman, a citizen, an American. She and her husband live in Richmond, Texas. They have a small manufacturing business. In the past few years she became interested in public policy and founded two groups, King Street Patriots and True the Vote.
In July 2010 she sent applications to the IRS for tax-exempt status. What followed was not the harassment, intrusiveness and delay we’re now used to hearing of. The U.S. government came down on her with full force.
Peggy Noonan’s Blog
Daily declarations from the Wall Street Journal columnist.
In December 2010 the FBI came to ask about a person who’d attended a King Street Patriots function. In January 2011 the FBI had more questions. The same month the IRS audited her business tax returns. In May 2011 the FBI called again for a general inquiry about King Street Patriots. In June 2011 Engelbrecht’s personal tax returns were audited and the FBI called again. In October 2011 a round of questions on True the Vote. In November 2011 another call from the FBI. The next month, more questions from the FBI. In February 2012 a third round of IRS questions on True the Vote. In February 2012 a first round of questions on King Street Patriots. The same month the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did an unscheduled audit of her business. (It had a license to make firearms but didn’t make them.) In July 2012 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did an unscheduled audit. In November 2012 more IRS questions on True the Vote. In March 2013, more questions. In April 2013 a second ATF audit.
All this because she requested tax-exempt status for a local conservative group and for one that registers voters and tries to get dead people off the rolls. Her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, who provided the timeline above, told me: “These people, they are just regular Americans. They try to get dead people off the voter rolls, you would think that they are serial killers.”
This week Ms. Engelbrecht, who still hasn’t received her exemptions, sued the IRS.
With all the talk and the hearings and the news reports, it is important to keep the essentials of this story in mind.
First, only conservative groups were targeted in this scandal by the IRS. Liberal or progressive groups were not targeted. The IRS leaked conservative groups’ confidential applications and donor lists to liberal groups, never the other way around.
This was a political operation. If it had not been, then the statistics tell us left-wing groups would have been harassed and abused, and seen their applications leaked to the press. There would be a left-wing equivalent to Catherine Engelbrecht.
And all of this apparently took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. Meaning that before that election, groups that were anti-Obamacare, or pro-life, or pro-Second Amendment or constitutionalist, or had words like “tea party” or “patriot” in their name—groups that is that would support Republicans, not Democrats—were suppressed, thwarted, kept from raising money and therefore kept from fully operating.
That is some kind of coincidence. That is some kind of strangely political, strangely partisan, and strangely ideological “poor customer service.”
IRS officials have complained that the law is murky, it’s difficult to define what the tax exemption law really means. But they don’t have any problem defining it. They defined it with a vengeance.
Second, it is important to remember that there has never been an investigation of what happened in the IRS. There was an internal IRS audit, not an investigation, carried out by an inspector general, who was careful this week to note to the House what he’d done was not an investigation. He was tasked to come to conclusions on whether there had been wrongdoing at the agency. It was not his job to find out exactly why it happened, how and when the scandal began, who was involved, and how they operated.
A dead serious investigation is needed. The IRS has colorfully demonstrated that it cannot investigate itself. The Obama administration wants the FBI—which answers to Eric Holder’s Justice Department—to investigate, but that would not be credible. The investigators of the IRS must be independent of the administration, or their conclusions will not be trustworthy.
An independent counsel, with all the powers of that office, is what we need.
Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.
B. 27 Edward Snowden Quotes About U.S. Government Spying That Should Send A Chill Up Your Spine
10 June 2013, TheEconomicCollapse.com, By Michael
Pasted from: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/27-edward-snowden-quotes-about-u-s-government-spying-that-should-send-a-chill-up-your-spine
Would you be willing to give up what Edward Snowden has given up? He has given up his high paying job, his home, his girlfriend, his family, his future and his freedom just to expose the monolithic spy machinery that the U.S. government has been secretly building to the world. He says that he does not want to live in a world where there isn’t any privacy. He says that he does not want to live in a world where everything that he says and does is recorded. Thanks to Snowden, we now know that the U.S. government has been spying on us to a degree that most people would have never even dared to imagine. Up until now, the general public has known very little about the U.S. government spy grid that knows almost everything about us. But making this information public is going to cost Edward Snowden everything. Essentially, his previous life is now totally over. And if the U.S. government gets their hands on him, he will be very fortunate if he only has to spend the next several decades rotting in some horrible prison somewhere. There is a reason why government whistleblowers are so rare. And most Americans are so apathetic that they wouldn’t even give up watching their favorite television show for a single evening to do something good for society. Most Americans never even try to make a difference because they do not believe that it will benefit them personally. Meanwhile, our society continues to fall apart all around us. Hopefully the great sacrifice that Edward Snowden has made will not be in vain. Hopefully people will carefully consider what he has tried to share with the world. The following are 27 quotes from Edward Snowden about U.S. government spying that should send a chill up your spine…
#1 “The majority of people in developed countries spend at least some time interacting with the Internet, and Governments are abusing that necessity in secret to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate.”
#2 “…I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.”
#3 “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.”
#4 “…I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
#5 “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything.”
#6 “With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”
#7 “Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere… I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President…”
#8 “To do that, the NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they are collecting YOUR communications to do so.”
#9 “I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinized most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”
#10 “…they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”
#11 “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. …it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life.”
#12 “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.”
#13 “Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”
#14 “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
#15 “I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy, and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”
#16 “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.”
#17 “I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act.”
#18 “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”
#19 “The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. [People] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things… And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse. [The NSA will] say that… because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”
#20 “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
#21 “You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk.”
#22 “I know the media likes to personalize political debates, and I know the government will demonize me.”
#23 “We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
#24 “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.”
#25 “There’s no saving me.”
#26 “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night.”
#27 “I do not expect to see home again.”
Would you make the same choice that Edward Snowden made? Most Americans would not. One CNN reporter says that he really admires Snowden because he has tried to get insiders to come forward with details about government spying for years, but none of them were ever willing to…
As a digital technology writer, I have had more than one former student and colleague tell me about digital switchers they have serviced through which calls and data are diverted to government servers or the big data algorithms they’ve written to be used on our e-mails by intelligence agencies. I always begged them to write about it or to let me do so while protecting their identities. They refused to come forward and believed my efforts to shield them would be futile. “I don’t want to lose my security clearance. Or my freedom,” one told me.
And if the U.S. government has anything to say about it, Snowden is most definitely going to pay for what he has done. In fact, according to the Daily Beast, a directorate known as “the Q Group” is already hunting Snowden down…
The people who began chasing Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, according to former U.S. intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The directorate, sometimes known as “the Q Group,” is continuing to track Snowden now that he’s outed himself as The Guardian’s source, according to the intelligence officers.
If Snowden is not already under the protection of some foreign government (such as China), it will just be a matter of time before U.S. government agents get him.
And how will they treat him once they find him? Well, one reporter overheard a group of U.S. intelligence officials talking about how Edward Snowden should be “disappeared”. The following is from a Daily Mail article that was posted on Monday…
A group of intelligence officials were overheard yesterday discussing how the National Security Agency worker who leaked sensitive documents to a reporter last week should be ‘disappeared.’
Foreign policy analyst and editor at large of The Atlantic, Steve Clemons, tweeted about the ‘disturbing’ conversation after listening in to four men who were sitting near him as he waited for a flight at Washington’s Dulles airport.
‘In Dulles UAL lounge listening to 4 US intel officials saying loudly leaker & reporter on #NSA stuff should be disappeared recorded a bit,’ he tweeted at 8:42 a.m. on Saturday.
According to Clemons, the men had been attending an event hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
As an American, I am deeply disturbed that the U.S. government is embarrassing itself in front of the rest of the world like this.
The fact that we are collecting trillions of pieces of information on people all over the planet is a massive embarrassment and the fact that our politicians are defending this practice now that it has been exposed is a massive embarrassment.
If the U.S. government continues to act like a Big Brother police state, then the rest of the world will eventually conclude that is exactly what we are. At that point we become the “bad guy” and we lose all credibility with the rest of the planet.
C. Is Edward Snowden a hero or traitor?
11 June 2013, Yahoo! News, by Dylan Stableford
Excerpt pasted from: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/snowden-hero-traitor-190447620.html
“Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs,” a petition urging the Obama administration to pardon Snowden posted to the White House website reads. It has more than 50,000 signatures.
“He is a hero,” The New Yorker’s John Cassidy writes. “In revealing the colossal scale of the U.S. government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, he has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed.”
“There has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material,” Daniel Ellsberg, whose leak of the so-called Pentagon Papers in 1971 exposed the secret history of the Vietnam War, wrote in an op-ed published by The Guardian on Monday. “Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an ‘executive coup’ against the U.S. Constitution.”