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May 16, 2013

IRS, Justice actions violate our trust

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The Daily Star

---- — After the recent actions of the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Justice Department, belief in the integrity of our government is hanging by a very slender thread.

There are a lot of resentful taxpayers who don’t need much of a reason to distrust the IRS, and recent revelations reveal that we all have cause to be worried about that crucial part of our government.

For 18 months, beginning in 2010, the IRS targeted conservative organizations that applied for tax-exempt status. “No work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months, according to a report released Tuesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

While applications from liberal groups were processed speedily, “the IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention,” the report said.

Outrageous.

Even as the IRS is pinning much of the blame for this obscenity on two “rogue” employees, it all stinks to high heaven.

President Obama on Tuesday said in a statement that the actions revealed in the report were “intolerable and inexcusable.”

We couldn’t agree more. Republicans have tried their best to pin the blame on Obama, something Democrats would certainly be doing if the president were a Republican. While it’s true that the buck stops at the president’s desk, we’re hoping he becomes part of the solution.

“The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS,” he said. “The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.”

Also failing a test of integrity was Obama’s Justice Department, which subpoenaed the calling records for 20 telephone lines used at work and home by Associated Press reporters. The department was investigating a leak of classified information about an al-Qaida terrorist plot.

Although the Justice Department obtained lawful subpoenas and did not listen in on any calls, it did learn — without the AP’s knowledge — whom reporters were talking to and for how long.

In this chilling attack on the press’ ability to do its job as the people’s watchdog, the Justice Department might not intimidate reporters and editors, but it will certainly make any government whistleblowers think twice about talking on the phone with a reporter.

The IRS and the Justice Department have a lot to answer for. The best way to do it is out in the open. Let the scrutiny continue.