by TONY LEE 16 Jun 2013
An IRS supervisor who oversaw over 200 agents in the Cincinnati office admitted that she personally reviewed applications from conservative and Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status. Her statements contradict assertions by other IRS officials that “rogue” agents were solely responsible for the targeting.
The Associated Press reports that Holly Paz (pictured), “a top deputy in the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status,” told congressional investigators that she personally reviewed “20 to 30 applications.”
According to ABC affiliate WCPO, Paz worked at the Cincinnati office as a manager while the “systematic scrutiny of conservative groups” occurred but now serves as “the director of the office rulings and agreements for the IRS in Washington, D.C.”
Paz is a registered Democrat who donated $4,000 to the Obama campaign in 2008 and is currently on administrative leave, according to her lawyer.
IRS officials have insisted that “rogue” agents in the Cincinnati office were responsible for the targeting, even though workers in the office like Elizabeth Hofacre have insisted there were so many checks in place that it was virtually impossible for them to “go off the reservation.”
Paz seems to have confirmed Hofacre’s objections, telling investigators that “Tea Party” applications were forwarded to her from Cincinnati, and she then sent those applications to legal experts in D.C. She also admitted “dozens of tea party applications sat untouched for more than a year while field agents waited for guidance from Washington on how to handle them.”
Paz reportedly told investigators last month that she thought “Tea Party” was shorthand for all political groups, since the first case she reviewed in D.C. in 2010 happened to be a Tea Party case. According to USA Today, Paz told investigators that she thought “Tea Party” could refer to a liberal or conservative organization, just like “‘Coke’ is used as a generic term for soda” and people “refer to tissues as ‘Kleenex.'”
Yet Hofacre, the paper notes, “told investigators that she kicked out any progressive groups that other agents tried to put in with the Tea Party cases” and “understood the term to mean conservative or Republican groups.”
“I was tasked to do Tea Parties, and I wasn’t — I wasn’t equipped or set up to do anything else,” she reportedly told investigators. USA Today also found that IRS data showed “dozens of liberal groups received tax-exempt approval in the 27 months that Tea Party groups sat in limbo, even though the liberal groups were engaging in similar kids of activity.”
NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants
National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.
NSA Director Keith Alexander says his agency’s analysts, which until recently included Edward Snowden among their ranks, take protecting “civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day.”
(Credit: Getty Images)
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”
If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.
Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.
The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”
There are serious “constitutional problems” with this approach, said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has litigated warrantless wiretapping cases. “It epitomizes the problem of secret laws.”
The NSA yesterday declined to comment to CNET. A representative said Nadler was not immediately available. (This is unrelated to last week’s disclosure that the NSA is currently collecting records of the metadata of all domestic Verizon calls, but not the actual contents of the conversations.)
A portion of the NSA’s mammoth data center in Bluffdale, Utah, scheduled to open this fall.
(Credit: Getty Images)
Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.
William Binney, a former NSA technical director who helped to modernize the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network, told the Daily Caller this week that the NSA records the phone calls of 500,000 to 1 million people who are on its so-called target list, and perhaps even more. “They look through these phone numbers and they target those and that’s what they record,” Binney said.
Brewster Kahle, a computer engineer who founded the Internet Archive, has vast experience storing large amounts of data. He created a spreadsheet this week estimating that the cost to store all domestic phone calls a year in cloud storage for data-mining purposes would be about $27 million per year, not counting the cost of extra security for a top-secret program and security clearances for the people involved.
NSA’s annual budget is classified but is estimated to be around $10 billion.
Documents that came to light in an EFF lawsuit provide some insight into how the spy agency vacuums up data from telecommunications companies. Mark Klein, who worked as an AT&T technician for over 22 years, disclosed in 2006 (PDF) that he witnessed domestic voice and Internet traffic being surreptitiously “diverted” through a “splitter cabinet” to secure room 641A in one of the company’s San Francisco facilities. The room was accessible only to NSA-cleared technicians.
AT&T and other telecommunications companies that allow the NSA to tap into their fiber links receive absolute immunity from civil liability or criminal prosecution, thanks to a law that Congress enacted in 2008 and renewed in 2012. It’s a series of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also known as the FISA Amendments Act.
That law says surveillance may be authorized by the attorney general and director of national intelligence without prior approval by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as long as minimization requirements and general procedures blessed by the court are followed.
A requirement of the 2008 law is that the NSA “may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.” A possible interpretation of that language, some legal experts said, is that the agency may vacuum up everything it can domestically — on the theory that indiscriminate data acquisition was not intended to “target” a specific American citizen.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, an attorney and member of the House Judiciary committee, who said he was “startled” to learn that NSA analysts could eavesdrop on domestic calls without court authorization.
(Credit: Getty Images)
Rep. Nadler’s disclosure that NSA analysts can listen to calls without court orders came during a House Judiciary hearing on Thursday that included FBI director Robert Mueller as a witness.
Mueller initially sought to downplay concerns about NSA surveillance by claiming that, to listen to a phone call, the government would need to seek “a special, a particularized order from the FISA court directed at that particular phone of that particular individual.”
Is information about that procedure “classified in any way?” Nadler asked.
“I don’t think so,” Mueller replied.
“Then I can say the following,” Nadler said. “We heard precisely the opposite at the briefing the other day. We heard precisely that you could get the specific information from that telephone simply based on an analyst deciding that…In other words, what you just said is incorrect. So there’s a conflict.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence committee, separately acknowledged this week that the agency’s analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, acknowledged this week that NSA analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”
(Credit: Getty Images)
Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell indicated during a House Intelligence hearing in 2007 that the NSA’s surveillance process involves “billions” of bulk communications being intercepted, analyzed, and incorporated into a database.
They can be accessed by an analyst who’s part of the NSA’s “workforce of thousands of people” who are “trained” annually in minimization procedures, he said. (McConnell, who had previously worked as the director of the NSA, is now vice chairman at Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer.)
If it were “a U.S. person inside the United States, now that would stimulate the system to get a warrant,” McConnell told the committee. “And that is how the process would work. Now, if you have foreign intelligence data, you publish it [inside the federal government]. Because it has foreign intelligence value.”
McConnell said during a separate congressional appearance around the same time that he believed the president had the constitutional authority, no matter what the law actually says, to order domestic spying without warrants.
Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN last month that, in national security investigations, the bureau can access records of a previously made telephone call. “All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not,” he said. Clemente added in an appearance the next day that, thanks to the “intelligence community” — an apparent reference to the NSA — “there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.”
NSA Director Keith Alexander said this week that his agency’s analysts abide by the law: “They do this lawfully. They take compliance oversight, protecting civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day.”
But that’s not always the case. A New York Times article in 2009 revealed the NSA engaged in significant and systemic “over collection” of Americans’ domestic communications that alarmed intelligence officials. The Justice Department said in a statement at the time that it “took comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance” with the law.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, says he was surprised to see the 2008 FISA Amendments Act be used to vacuum up information on American citizens. “Everyone who voted for the statute thought it was about international communications,” he said.
Blaming Cincinnati for IRS scandal is so wrong
I have a question for the politicians of Cincinnati complaining that the IRS scandal is giving their city a bad name. Can you show me where these offices are in your fair city?
One of the arcane bits of information in this scandal is that the so-called IRS Cincinnati Service Center hasn’t been in Cincinnati or even in Ohio for many years now. Due to bureaucratic inertia and the habit of taxpayers in sending returns to the same address year after year, the name Cincinnati Service Center stuck, Taxpayers who send information to this office via the USPS still use the mailing address of IRS Service Center Cincinnati, OH 45999 Those who use a private delivery service, however, better address their submission to 201 West Rivercenter Blvd. Covington, KY 41011.
So why was the Cincinnati Service Center picked on? The employees at this mis-named IRS Center were probably seen as convenient scapegoats for the administration because all applications for tax exempt status are, in fact, sent to this Service Center for their initial processing. From there the applications may be reassigned to local offices for follow up questions. IRS Service Centers and local offices do not set policy: They follow directives from Washington, DC. That said, a few agents may be more zealous than others in enforcing policies, especially if an organization does not have skilled legal counsel. My own suspicion is that this is yet another example of this administration’s highly parochial roots on display. In Chicago city low level bureaucrats are expected to take the fall for elected officials and top advisors. Federal employees have different expectations.
By TOM HAYS Associated Press
NEW YORK June 14, 2013 (AP)
A former New York state senator who was accused of looting health clinics to pay for extravagances including pony rides and who pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Pedro Espada Jr. was sentenced Friday in Brooklyn.
The once-influential Democrat also was convicted in a separate case alleging he looted the taxpayer-subsidized clinics.
Espada operated the clinics in the South Bronx for three decades until prosecutors accused him of turning the network into a personal ATM.
Espada offered no signs of remorse before sentencing. He instead talked about the clinics’ history of providing care to poor New Yorkers.
PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. –
Several South Florida elected officials don’t appear to be living in the districts where they were elected — which is in violation of the Florida Constitution.
Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, for one, claims to live in a rundown home on Northwest 7th Terrace in Fort Lauderdale (pictured right).
But Thurston was caught by Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman living in his much larger longtime home in a more upscale neighborhood in Plantation (pictured above).
The Florida Constitution demands that Thurston and all other state reps live in the districts they represent, but neighbor Willa Mae Gibson said he doesn’t live in the home he claims in his district.
“That’s his mama house, Perry’s brother and his wife stay there,” said Gibson. “I don’t know where [Perry lives] … nowhere in this neighborhood.”
Norman caught Perry at his Plantation home on a recent morning.
“Are you supposed to be living here, Perry? Can I talk with you a second?” asked Norman.
“Nah,” replied Thurston.
“You’re not in your district,” said Norman.
“I am,” said Thurston, who then shut the door on Norman.
“If you’re going to represent the area, live in it,” said Suzanne Leary, who lives in Lauderdale Lakes. “It’s like live here and deal with what we’re dealing with.”
Florida Rep. Hazelle Rogers claims to live in Leary’s condominium (picture above). Leary said she rarely sees her.
“I think she maintains the condo because she’s elected in this area,” said Leary. “I think they have a house somewhere else.”
Rogers does in fact own a home a few miles away (pictured right) outside her district. She didn’t offer a comment to Local 10.
Florida Rep. Jared Moskowitz won in a Coral Springs district, which effectively barred him from living in his own home with his wife at the Parkland Golf and Country Club (pictured above). Moskowitz claims to live in a Coral Springs apartment several miles away.
“The apartment is where I live,” Moskowitz told Norman by phone. “I woke up there this morning.”
When Local 10 visited Moskowitz’s apartment (pictured right) that same day, an envelope dated several days before was stuffed in the door crack. The property manager said he put the envelope there a few days before.
Moskowitz said he had never seen the letter.
“If you never saw the letter, that means you weren’t at the apartment, are you sticking by that you slept in your apartment this week?” Norman asked Moskowitz.
Moskowitz stuck by his story despite the obvious inconsistency. Numerous other politicians have been snared in residency controversies over the years, including state representatives Jim Waldman and Joe Gibbons, but authorities often overlook such cases.
Both Thurston and Moskowitz failed to relinquish their homestead tax exemptions on their main residences before claiming to move out of them, prompting Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish to remove those exemptions.
“A lot of [politicians] have called through the years,” said Parrish, pointing out that former Congressman Allen West didn’t live in his district while serving in office. “They want to run for something and they want to move.”
President Obama and his family will be going to Africa later this month. But the trip won’t be cheap; it’s expected to cost American taxpayers $60 to $100 million, according to the Washington Post.
“When President Obama makes his first extended trip to sub-Saharan Africa later this month, the federal agencies charged with keeping him safe won’t be taking any chances. Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of emergency,” reports the Post.
“Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet-proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.
“The extraordinary security provisions — which will cost the government tens of millions of dollars — are outlined in a confidential internal planning document obtained by The Washington Post. While the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander-in-chief on trips abroad.”
After the paper questioned the costs of a planned family safari, the White House nixed the plan. “The president and first lady had also planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, which would have required the president’s special counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document. But the White House canceled the safari on Wednesday following inquiries from The Washington Post about the trip’s purpose and expense, according to a person familiar with the decision.”
The paper adds, “Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years, according to one person familiar with the journey who was not authorized to speak for attribution. The Secret Service planning document, which was provided to The Post by a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip, does not specify costs.”
June 11, 2013, 4:06 p.m. EDT
Judicial Watch: Homeland Security Documents Reveal DHS Abandoned Required Illegal Alien Background Checks to Meet Flood of Amnesty Requests Following Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Directive
Documents Reveal That ‘Dreamers’ Order Opened Door to Relatives of Illegal Immigrants, “Inundating” Border Towns With Petitions for Admission
WASHINGTON, DC, Jun 11, 2013 (Marketwired via COMTEX) — Judicial Watch announced today that documents obtained recently through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) abandoned required background checks late last year, adopting, instead, costly “lean and lite” procedures in effort to keep up with the flood of amnesty applications spurred by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) directive, which grants illegal aliens a two-year deferment from deportation.
Acting on a tip from a whistleblower at a federal law enforcement agency, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with DHS, for “all communications, memoranda, emails, policy guidance, directives, initiatives, and any other correspondence respecting the scope and extent of background checks to be performed (or not) on aliens applying to the Obama administration’s DACA program.” The FOIA was filed on October 26, 2012. The Immigration and National Security Act (INA) mandates a “coordinated, uniform, and efficient,” system of background checks. Instead, the FOIA documents reveal a costly, haphazard process, with only cursory review for the backgrounds of illegal aliens seeking “deferred status.”
Document highlights include:
— In a series of agency memos beginning in September 14, 2012, field offices were told to expect the National Benefits Center (which collects all DACA applications) to conduct only “lean & lite” background checks on illegal alien applicants, and that, henceforth, “NBC will not perform full TECS checks or any evidence review on these cases before we ship to the field.” An October 14 memo reiterated that under the new “lean and lite” policy, “Hits will be sent to the field without resolution.” On October 25, the St. Paul Field Director conceded to staffers that the new “lean & lite” procedures were for an indefinite period of time, saying, “I just can’t tell you when things will revert back to the way they used to be.”
— An email chain from September 5 and through November 14 indicates managerial pressure not to turn any illegal alien applicant away for lack of ID, including the explicit directive in an October 3 memo, “Biometric processing should not be refused solely because an applicant does not present an acceptable ID.” In an October 1 memo further restricting independent action by agency personnel, they were instructed, “Every two weeks field offices will report the number of DACA requestors who appear for biometrics collection at an ASC during the previous two week period, but were turned away without fingerprints or photographs being taken. Field offices will also need to provide the reason why the DACA requestor was turned away by the ASC ISO.” — The documents suggest added taxpayer costs for the new deportation deferral program. On June 28, 2012, all Regional Service Managers were informed that they were to “come up with the number of guards that would be required and a dollar amount” in order to meet the new DACA processing requirements. On July 31, 2012, the agency announced, “In support of the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, USCIS is procuring 40 additional biometrics workstations.”
— On November 9, 2012, just three days after Obama was reelected, in an “!!! IMPORTANT DACA MESSAGE!!! The agency was directed to: “Please put all DACA work on hold until further notice.” There are no later-dated documents in the production to indicate how or when USCIS resumed DACA background checks or application processing. The documents also reveal that, contrary to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s claim that DACA applied only to minors who came to this country illegally “through no fault of their own,” the directive actually created a new avenue of chain migration, whereby immediate relatives of DACA requesters could be approved for amnesty. As a result, according to a June 18, 2012, agency memo from District 15 Director, David Douglas, “some of the districts closer to the U.S./Mexico border have been inundated.”
“The Obama administration seems to be throwing public safety and national security out the door in implementing its illicit and unilateral amnesty program for illegal aliens. The costs and security lapses of this program show that this administration can’t be trusted to implement any of the new security measures in the amnesty bill in the Senate,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “These documents show a crisis in law enforcement and national security caused by President Obama’s unilateral decision to grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands illegal aliens.”
SOURCE: Judicial Watch