Friday, April 20 , 2018, 3:53 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Diane Dimond: Americans in the Government’s Bull’s-Eye

Americans are being unfairly targeted by their own government. The proof is undeniable. It is clear that two of the nation’s biggest and most intimidating agencies — the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department — have overstepped their bounds by trampling on citizens’ rights. We should all be outraged.

You have to have been living in a cave not to have heard about the IRS scandal. The IRS’ Cincinnati office, which approved tax-exempt status for citizens’ political organizations, deliberately singled out and harassed conservative Republican groups in advance of the last presidential election. Many of those who tried to legally establish groups with names that included the words “Tea Party,” “conservative” or “patriot” were strung along and denied tax-exempt status, while the IRS quickly gave approval to groups from the other political spectrum. (Read that: President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.) It has been reported that the IRS also targeted groups describing themselves as wanting to “make America a better place to live” or criticized how the country is being run.

What if the IRS decided to target you because of your political affiliation, religion or sexual preference? That’s right — it would be outrageous and especially Kafkaesque for a country that was founded on equal rights for all.

Was there a wink-and-a-nod mentality at play here? Was the inner-office goal at the IRS to give approval to the Democratic Party but not to the opposition? We aren’t getting any answers from the woman who ran that program. IRS honcho Lois Lerner has refused to testify to Congress about what happened under her watch. She asserted her Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. I wondered, if her employees were not acting on her instructions (or a command from higher up in the administration), why not just say so?

Obama says he didn’t know anything about the “inexcusable” IRS actions that stalled his political opponents until he heard about it on TV the other day. He says the practice won’t be tolerated in the future — but that is a little late for those who wanted to make a difference in the last presidential election, isn’t it?

Now we learn that news about the IRS scandal had reached the top level at the White House weeks ago and senior White House aides claim they kept it to themselves. If I had a staff that failed to warn me of a pending major event that could affect my standing — and I had to learn about it from the media — I’d be looking for a new staff.

It is not just conservative, politically minded citizens whose rights of free expression have been trampled by the government. It’s clear the Justice Department has taken dead aim at those engaged in the business of a free press — the journalists who work to bring you, the public, the news you need to know about how your government works and doesn’t work.

I know it’s fashionable to complain about the media, but revelations about the Justice Department’s zeal to silence government insiders who leak information to journalists are astounding. Instead of concentrating on catching the leaker of information about a terror attack in Yemen, the DOJ targeted the Associated Press. Investigators got a secret and wide-ranging subpoena for two months worth of phone records on office lines that were used by 100 AP reporters and editors in four cities. The government also combed through AP journalists’ private phone records and emails. To me, this looks a lot more like a fishing expedition than a bona fide national security investigation.

What if the feds scrutinized your personal records based solely on your occupation? Would that be OK with you? Certainly not.

And now comes word that the DOJ labeled James Rosen, a Fox News Washington-based reporter, as a possible “co-conspirator” in a criminal investigation because he “conspired” with an insider to get information about North Korea back in in 2009. What did he do? He gave a knowledgeable State Department employee his phone numbers and his email, and they devised a backdoor way to communicate via Google mail. Reporters are careful like that. It doesn’t make them criminals. Even though they had plenty of evidence from the alleged leaker’s computer and office records, federal investigators went ahead and scoured Rosen’s personal phones and emails, as well as his comings-and-goings at the State Department.

That the government would try to brand a trusted, working journalist who is gathering information for the public a “criminal” is beyond mere intimidation. (Full disclosure: Rosen is a former colleague of mine.)

If there are truly damaging leaks of national security information from government insiders, then by all means the DOJ should go after those employees. The leakers are the ones breaking the confidentiality rules of their employment, breaking the law in some cases. The reporter is simply doing his or her job to gather trustworthy information and report it. The Constitution’s First Amendment protection of press freedom should be sacrosanct.

It was a source that provided the initial information that broke open the Watergate scandal. Sources finally revealed the true story behind the terrorist attack on Americans in Benghazi, and sources first revealed the so-called Fast and Furious “gun-walking” scandal. When that well-established information pipeline is interrupted — because a source fears his/her identity could be revealed through a government phone tap or email sweep — your right-to-know dries up.

If the IRS can target certain citizens for harassment and reward others, if the Justice Department can put your sources for news in a bull’s-eye and try to criminalize them — well, as I said, we should all be outraged.

Diane Dimond is the author of Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >