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“She Can See Things 16 Days Before They Happen”: The Woman At The Center Of The IRS ‘Scandal’ Must Be Clairvoyant

If I were the Republican Party, rather than attacking Lois Lerner as a modern-day E. Howard Hunt, I’d hire her as an election consultant. Why? Because the former commissioner at the center of the “newly re-burgeoning” IRS “scandal” is clearly a clairvoyant. I should think she’d be pretty handy for Reince Priebus to have around this October. You see, she can see things 16 days before they happen.

How do I know this? Consider the timeline of events. Lerner, who worked in the service’s Washington office, was first alerted that employees in the Cincinnati branch were using “inappropriate criteria” (key words like “tea party”) to process the applications of nonprofit groups on June 29, 2011. This comes from the very Treasury Department IG report that first made this whole business public. See the timeline here.

OK, so that’s that. Now, you’ve been hearing all this stuff lately about her lost emails, right? Her emails from between January 2009 and April 2011 disappeared. Went poof. It was in early 2010 that the IRS began using the inappropriate criteria. Looks awfully suspicious, doesn’t it? She lost all her emails pertaining to the period under examination and then some. Stinks to high heaven. Some have compared the missing two-plus years to the famous 18 1/2-minute gap in the Watergate tapes.

One problem. Her computer crashed on June 13, 2011. It was the following day that she wrote to other IRS personnel to tell them: “My computer crashed yesterday.” This date was noted last week by Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

That was when all those emails disappeared on her. It happened 16 days before she even knew about the problem in the Cincinnati office. So how likely is it that she deleted those emails in order to prevent House investigators from being able to learn anything about the “scandal”? Considering that she didn’t know about the problem yet, I’d say bloody unlikely.

In other words, this is just another ridiculous allegation in a parade of them. Admittedly, all of these revelations have looked dubious at first glance. But all of them have fizzled upon serious examination. It wasn’t just groups on the right that were targeted. The IRS head who visited the White House 155 times or whatever it was turns out to have gone to the Old Executive Office Building, not the White House, most of those times, and largely to talk about the IRS’ role in crafting and implementing Obamacare. And so on.

On top of that, the idea that Obama himself had some hand in this stuff, which was of course the original suspicion and orgasmatronic dream in Wingnuttia, is and always has been utterly crazy. I wouldn’t have put much past George W. Bush, but I would never have believed that even he would have orchestrated a scandal with such little upside (keeping some groups from getting 501c3 status) and such massive downside (possible Nixonian illegality). Dick Cheney, maybe, but not Bush.

And on top of that, the extremely unsurprising fact is that federal government computers crash all the time. These agencies’ internal operations are all underfunded, and bureaucrats all over the country are using primitive computers that groan under the weight of today’s demands. Plus, requirements for data preservation are fairly lax—and even if they weren’t, problems happen in this realm frequently.

Remember the Bush-era U.S. attorney firings? The Bush White House announced that it had lost 5 million emails during that probe. Not all emails relating to the Valerie Plame investigation were properly preserved. And finally, a Justice Department report found that many emails written by and to two Bush administration officials who’d been involved in crafting the “torture is legal” argument had suddenly gone missing. I’m sure the people today saying that the IRS scandal is bigger than Watergate were making excuses then.

In this case, no excuses need to be made. Unless Lois Lerner is a clairvoyant, the idea that she deleted emails on June 13 to cover up behavior she didn’t even learn about until June 29 is simply preposterous to any rational person with even a passing respect for facts and evidence. Unfortunately, that doesn’t describe Darrell Issa, who is holding another hearing Monday night (yes, night!), casting his fishing line out into the sea one more time. His colleague Trey Gowdy is going to be getting all the Benghazi headlines once that committee is up and running, so Issa has to find something to do, I suppose.

What’s amusing to me here is this: Conservatives are the people who think government can’t do anything right. That is exactly the situation we have here. IRS employees in Cincinnati really screwed up the processing of applications. The people in the charge of them in Washington were to some degree asleep. Computers crashed and emails were lost. As far as conservatives are concerned, that’s what government does all the time.

To conservatives, that usually explains a lot. But here of course they thought they had a chance to advance the more delectably sinister theory that Obama is out to destroy his political enemies. But sorry. Obama’s no Nixon, and Lois Lerner is no Rose Mary Woods.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 23, 2014

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Karl Rove’s Area Of Expertise”: The Guy Responsible For More Than His Share Of Meaningful Scandals

The controversy surrounding Justice Department leak investigations, and surveillance of journalists and phone logs, is clearly a serious matter. But is Karl Rove is the best person to be discussing this?

Appearing Monday on Fox News, Karl Rove attacked the Obama administration’s surveilling of Fox reporter James Rosen in a leak investigation as “chilling” and its rationale for doing so “beyond the pale.”

“We had to confront this question during the Bush administration,” he said. “There were leaks of classified information and in each and every instance, the focus was on the potential leak, not the reporter who received it.”

Rove defended the need to prosecute leaks but said the media shouldn’t be targeted. “This is really chilling,” he said.

If we remove Rove from the equation, I’m sympathetic to concerns about the chilling effect the leak investigations will have on journalists and their sources. It’s a point Rachel will probably explore on tonight’s show in more detail.

But if we keep Rove in the equation, there are some noteworthy angles to keep in mind. First, like Dave Roberts, I’m not sure how we arrived at the point at which Karl Rove can appear on national television to scrutinize White House controversies. The guy was, after all, responsible for more than his share of meaningful scandals.

Second, I’m even less sure how we arrived at the point at which Karl Rove can appear on national television to discuss and scrutinize White House controversies involving leaks of classified information. It was Rove, after all, who was very nearly indicted for his role in the White House outing an undercover CIA official as part of a larger political strategy.

Third, the focus during the Bush/Cheney era was “on the potential leak, not the reporter who received it”? I don’t mean to sound picky, but during Bush/Cheney era, the Justice Department “improperly gained access to reporters’ calling records as part of leak investigations.” Indeed, it happened quite a bit. One reporter went to jail to protect a White House source during a leak investigation, and another reporter very nearly met the same fate.

Does Rove not remember any of this?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 20, 2013

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ethics For Thee, But Not For Me”: Should Jonathan Karl Reveal His Benghazi Email Source?

The controversy surrounding the editing of the administration’s Benghazi talking points took an interesting turn on Monday when CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that a newly obtained email from White House aide Ben Rhodes written during the editing of those talking points “differs from how sources inaccurately quoted and paraphrased it in previous accounts to different media organizations.”

Tapper was referring, in part, to a May 10 report from ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, who in that report claimed to be citing both administration “emails” and “summaries” of those emails, provided what appeared to be direct quotes from those emails, and said on air that he had “obtained” them. Karl reported the emails suggested the White House had been deeply involved in crafting a political response to the terror attack that occurred at the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi September 11, where four Americans were killed. The ABC exclusive, accusing the administration of having “scrubbed” vital information from the talking points, ignited a controversy about the White House’s handling of the attack.

Referring to the emails quoted in the ABC piece, Tapper stressed that, “Whoever provided those quotes and paraphrases did so inaccurately, seemingly inventing the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”

(Both the Rhodes email and those of the State Department bolster testimony from then-CIA director David Petraeus noted, the talking points were changed to avoid interfering with the ongoing investigation into the perpetrators.)

As Media Matters noted, Karl responded by explaining that he had not actually reviewed the emails himself, but had been “quoting verbatim a source who reviewed the original documents and shared detailed notes.” He added that the source “was not permitted to make copies of the original e-mails,” indicating that Karl’s original piece was based entirely on his source’s summaries.

Karl insisted that the summaries represent an accurate take on the emails.

But the email obtained by CNN makes it clear that in at least one key instance Karl’s source, who he quoted “verbatim,” got the emails’ contents wrong, leading to a misleading picture of the process by which the talking points were edited.

Was that error accidental? It’s hard to imagine how simply writing down the contents of an email could lead to such a glaring discrepancy. And the administration’s release yesterday of roughly 100 pages of emails detailing the exchanges between administration aides around the creation of those talking points does even more to put out the fire that Karl helped to ignite. This raises the question of whether misinformation was passed along to Karl deliberately in order to create a political firestorm.

The revelation that the source passed along inaccurate summaries of the emails raises troubling questions for Karl and ABC News: Do Karl’s bosses know who the source is who misled the reporter? And do other reporters at ABC News regularly use, and trust, the same source?

Another key question is whether Karl should reveal the source who misled him. While journalists take seriously the vow to not reveal the identity of confidential sources in exchange for the information that those sources provide, it’s not unheard of for journalists to reveal source identities if it’s proven that that person badly misled a reporter or passed along bogus information. Some observers think that’s what happened in the case of the Benghazi talking points.

“The answer here is that Karl pretty clearly got burned by his source,” wrote Talking Points Memo editor, Josh Marshall.

Reporters enter into an agreement and give anonymity to sources in exchange for information, and specifically, in exchange for reliable information. But when sources pass along provably false misinformation, and particularly when they do it in a plainly partisan fashion, the nature of that agreement changes and under some newsroom interpretations, reporters are no longer bound to keep secret the name of the unreliable source. In fact, it’s sometimes argued reporters are obligated to ‘burn’ their source in the name of disclosing attempts at misinformation.

“Some journalists adhere to a code where the pledge of anonymity is broken if the source lies,” noted the New York Times’ then-managing editor, Jill Abramson, in 2009.

This newsroom ethics issue was raised prominently during the Valerie Plame leak investigation under the Bush administration.  While the White House was sparring with anti-war critics, such as Valerie Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, who accused the administration of manipulating intelligence, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote a column pushing back against Wilson. Citing “two senior administration officials,” Novak named Wilson’s wife and identified her as a CIA “operative on weapons of mass destruction.” Outing an undercover CIA employee is against the law and Novak’s column sparked a criminal investigation to determine who had provided him with that information.

At the time, the New York Times’ public editor, Geneva Overholser, noted that journalists ought to speak out against ethical lapses by their sources. She advised the following [emphasis added]:

In this case, then, journalists should call upon Mr. Novak to acknowledge his abuse of confidentiality and reveal his sources himself — thereby keeping the control of confidentiality in journalistic hands rather than in those of the legal system.

Should Karl follow the same advice?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, May 16, 2013

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Diction Debates”: To Cynical Republicans, “An Act Of Terror Is Different Than A Terrorist Attack”

Marc Ambinder explained this morning that Benghazi is “a debate about post-tragedy diction.” That’s certainly bolstered by recent Republican arguments, nearly all of which have to do with the timing of various choices of words.

If you’re thinking that genuine political controversies are supposed to deal with more meaningful issues than diction, you and I are on the same page, though congressional Republicans and much of the political world are on a very different page.

Take Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example. On Sept. 12, 2012, President Obama described the Benghazi attack as an act of terror. McCain yesterday insisted that those comments don’t count: “The president didn’t call it an ‘act of terror.’ … He condemned ‘acts of terrorism.'”

What matters, in Republicans’ minds, is the diction. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was thinking along the same lines today on Fox News. Watch on YouTube

“The president sent a letter to the president of Libya were he didn’t call it a terrorist attack even when in real time the president of Libya was calling this a pre-planned Sept. 11 terrorist attack,” Issa said. He added, “An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack.”

This is amusing, in a pathetic sort of way, and not just because of Issa’s rhetorical framework. It’s also striking because it’s shining a light on what Republicans consider truly important about this story: which officials used the words Republicans like and when.

Ambinder added, “The Diction Debates aren’t real because the opponent insists he/she knows about the motivation for using/ not using certain key words.” That’s also true — McCain, Issa and others are quite animated over which official used the word “terror” on which day.

But all of this serves to remind us that the political world has defined “scandal” down to a meaningless level. Watergate dealt with crimes committed by a president. Iran-Contra dealt with a White House that sold arms to a sworn enemy to finance an illegal war. The Plame Affair, the U.S. Attorney purge, and illegal warrantless wiretaps dealt with systemic wrongdoing at the highest levels.

In 2013, though, we’re apparently stuck with, “An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 13, 2013

May 15, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Through His Own Arrogance”: Dick Cheney Opens Himself To Subpoena Regarding 9/11, Iraq, Torture And Valerie Plame

When a former member of the Executive calls for Congress to subpoena another former member of the Executive, it is a game-changer. No longer can he rely on “Executive Privilege” to block his own testimony.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has suggested that the GOP subpoena former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again on Benghazi.

Fine and dandy. Let us first subpoena Mr. Cheney to testify about 9/11, Iraq, torture and the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Unlike former Secretary Clinton, who has testified to Congress for hours on Benghazi, Cheney has never testified for one minute before Congress on any of these matters.

Indeed, Congress never really investigated 9/11. It appointed a commission more than a year later to determine what changes needed to be made in U.S. security, not to assign accountability. One might ask Cheney who is accountable for 9/11, who lost their jobs over it. That is what Senator John McCain (R-AZ) keeps asking about Benghazi, yet I have never heard the official answers to those questions regarding 9/11/2001.

Regarding 9/11, Cheney had been chosen (in the same way that he was ‘chosen’ to be VP nominee) by Bush to be in charge of security. The most important point to recall is that, despite all the warnings from January 25 from the then-White House counterterrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, Cheney never even called a meeting of the “principals” responsible for national security to discuss those warnings until 9/4/2001, and that meeting was perfunctory. (Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke, p. 237). It is also worth noting that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who had no classified information, called it in a June 26, 2001 column, “A Memo from Osama bin Laden.”

Regarding Iraq, the Committee could probe how Cheney and his staff used Judith Miller to publish articles in the New York Times on Saddam’s WMD that were sourced from Cheney and that Cheney then quoted without revealing he was essentially quoting himself. They might ask him about the certainty of his public pronouncements when the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) expressed serious doubt about many of its own findings. The Committee might ask him about his references to Mohammed Atta in Prague, and, well, one would scarcely know where to begin, or end.

Regarding torture, there is recent bipartisan report that the Bush Adminstration engaged in torture and that the highest levels of government (read, Cheney and Bush) bear direct responsibility. Even the commission’s co-chair, NRA apologist and former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson, agreed with that finding.

The report has gone almost unnoticed. Perhaps the Cheney hearings can bring it to the fore where it belongs.

And then, of course, there is Valerie Plame. The Committee might ask him the justification for revealing classified information at all, and, by so doing, providing aid-and-comfort to enemies of the United States.

So, here’s the deal. Hillary Clinton has already testified on Benghazi once. When Dick Cheney appears before Congress to answer questions about his actions that caused the death and maiming of hundreds of thousands of people, some from incompetence, some as a result of outright lying- — then he can come talk to us about Hillary Clinton testifying again.

 

By: Paul Abrams, The Huffington Post, May 10, 2013

May 12, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Dick Cheney | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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