Secrecy ignited firestorms over Benghazi, IRS

The News TribuneMay 15, 2013 

Here’s what you don’t do if an IRS division is discovered to be singling out the political opposition: Sit on the explosive information for at least two years, and let the abuses fester in the meantime.

Here’s what you don’t do if a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans are killed by jihadists in Libya: Water down the public explanations until it sounds as if lax security had nothing to do with the attack.

The mistakes behind these two evasions aren’t remotely comparable in magnitude. But the Obama administration’s impulse to conceal the truth is the same.

An Internal Revenue Service unit’s seeming hostility to exemption-seeking conservative groups could conceivably go nuclear if responsibility reaches high enough in the Obama administration. The fact that IRS employees were hunting down Republican-leaning groups is shocking in itself; if it was even tolerated on high, it’s a revival of Nixon-style political tactics.

It also gives the lie to President Barack Obama’s mantra that he’s running “the most transparent administration” in American history. Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS division that granted or refused tax exemptions for advocacy groups, learned in June 2011 that its employees were using such search terms as “tea party” and “patriot” when targeting groups for extra scrutiny.

She didn’t bother to inform the public until Friday, on the eve of a scathing inspector general’s report. Even then, she insisted that the Determinations Unit had no political agenda.

The problem never would have arisen in the first place had the IRS been more forthcoming about its practices.

The unit uses what it calls “be on the lookout” criteria for scrutinizing particular groups. There’s no reason the BOLO has to be secret. Had it been an open document, no one would have dared add small-government advocacy to the guidelines.

The Benghazi business is not as shocking as Obama critics insist, but it’s still reveals a penchant for keeping the public in he dark.

News organizations have dug up a dispiriting exchange within the administration just after the killings in Benghazi. They show State officials winnowing embarrassing CIA intelligence out of the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice took to talk shows two days after the attack.

Left out was any indication that the State Department had done little to secure the diplomatic compound targeted by the jihadists — despite previous attacks in the same area.

Obama on Monday dismissed the complaints about the Benghazi prevarications as a “side show.” Compared to the IRS abuses, so they are. But there wouldn’t be any kind of show had his administration been up front from the beginning.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service