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June 1, 2013

Justice Dept., IRS abuses worth screaming about


The Justice Department apparently didn’t listen in on any conversations between AP reporters and their sources, but it knew who the reporters called and who called them. It’s almost impossible to overstate the chilling effect that could have.

While I doubt that any of the reporters were intimidated, the same can’t be said for the people they spoke to … or are likely to speak to in the future. Why would confidential sources or whistleblowers have anything to do with a reporter if they think the government will have a record of the call?

In 2010, our Justice Department also obtained subpoenas and search warrants for phone records, e-mails and security badge tracking of Fox News correspondent James Rosen. Rosen had revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had a 2009 source in North Korea who said that country was about to conduct a nuclear weapons test.

Mr. Holder will be spending a lot of time over the next few months answering questions from Congress about his involvement in the Rosen matter. As well he should.

This isn’t about the problems of journalists, about which the public cares little. It’s about Americans’ right to unfettered and unintimidated information that only a free press can provide.

The IRS, perhaps the most unpopular government agency based on the fact that it takes everybody’s money, didn’t do itself — or this country — any good when it let politics infect its work.

We still don’t know all the facts, but what we know is bad enough. IRS agents in Cincinnati delayed approval of tax-exempt status for conservative groups over an 18-months period that included the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. The delays — while requests from liberal groups whizzed through — certainly didn’t help the conservatives’ fundraising efforts.

Clearly, that kind of thing stinks.

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