Last week, President Barack Obama said that the United States should not let the international controversy surrounding Syria distract from domestic priorities. Of course, his views of what’s important at home probably aren’t the same as many American citizens’.
“Even as we have been spending a lot of time on the Syria issue and making sure that international attention is focused on the horrible tragedy that occurred there, it is still important to recognize that we’ve got a lot more stuff to do here in this government,” the President said.
Obama said that he will rapidly shift his focus to the budget, immigration and implementation of his signature healthcare legislation as he waits to see if talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are successful in drawing down tensions over Syria.
Since the President has a newfound focus on domestic issues, here are two things Obama could take the time to respond to since he is taking a break from beating his war drum:
National Security Agency Spying
In the time since Obama set about kicking off World War III, there have been further developments in the National Security Agency spying scandal revealing that the secret courts set up to keep the government in check were routinely misguided and ignored.
From 2006 to 2009, NSA analysts and supercomputers sifted through more American phone records than they were allowed to, often searched databases of phone records without even realizing they had and routinely shared search results with people who weren’t authorized to see them.
“The government has compounded its noncompliance with the court’s orders by repeatedly submitting inaccurate descriptions of the alert list process” to the court, Judge Reggie B. Walton wrote in a recently declassified 2009 ruling. “It has finally come to light that the F.I.S.C.’s authorizations of this vast collection program have been premised on a flawed depiction of how the N.S.A. uses” the data.
On Friday, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ordered government lawyers and intelligence officials to review its opinions related to the scope and Constitutionality of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the statute that the NSA has cited as its authority for its mass collection of U.S. telephone records in recent years. The government has been ordered by the court to declassify more of the (likely damning) opinions by Oct. 4.
Internal Revenue Service Targeting Of Tea Party
Lost amid headlines about Syria are also new developments in the Internal Revenue Service Tea Party targeting scandal. It turns out, Lois Lerner, the former director of exempt organizations at the IRS, lied to Congress and was directly involved in targeting conservative groups.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week:
In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff–including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz–that a Tea Party matter is ‘very dangerous,’ and is something ‘Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on.’ Ms. Lerner adds, “Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.
The WSJ report goes on to note that Lerner’s Tea Party targeting had a lot to do with her political leanings. More from the article:
The emails also put the targeting in the context of the media and Congressional drumbeat over the impact of conservative campaign spending on the 2012 elections. On July 10, 2012 then Lerner-adviser Sharon Light emailed Ms. Lerner a National Public Radio story on how outside money was making it hard for Democrats to hold their Senate majority.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had complained to the Federal Election Commission that conservative groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be treated as political committees, rather than 501(c)(4)s, which are tax-exempt social welfare groups that do not have to disclose their donors.
‘Perhaps the FEC will save the day,’ Ms. Lerner wrote back later that morning.
That response suggests Ms. Lerner’s political leanings, and it also raises questions about Ms. Lerner’s intentions in a separate email exchange she had when an FEC investigator inquired about the status of the conservative group the American Future Fund. The FEC and IRS don’t have the authority to share that information under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. But the bigger question is why did they want to? After the FEC inquiry, the American Future Fund also got a questionnaire from the IRS.
The newly discovered emails completely refute the official line parroted by both the White House and the IRS that the targeting originated with a couple of low-level IRS employees in Ohio. They also show a clear vein of political motivation that White House representatives have continually denied exists.
Lerner remains on paid leave from the IRS.