Tag: Snooping

Records Of Christine O’Donnell Tax Snooping Disappear

Records Of Christine O’Donnell Tax Snooping Disappear – Washington Times

Delaware state officials have told Congress that they likely destroyed the computer records that would show when and how often they accessed Christine O’Donnell’s personal tax records and acknowledged that a newspaper article was used as the sole justification for snooping into the former GOP Senate candidate’s tax history.

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The revelations to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office came Tuesday as the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, the government’s chief watchdog for the Internal Revenue Service, formally reopened its investigation into the matter by re-interviewing Ms. O’Donnell.

“It is an active investigation now,” Ms. O’Donnell told The Washington Times after meeting with the same Treasury agent who first informed her in January that her tax records were improperly accessed.

She declined to be more specific about what the agent questioned her about in Tuesday’s session.

But Mr. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who serves on the Judiciary and Finance committees, said he was concerned by the information Delaware state officials shared with his investigators.

Specifically, Mr. Grassley’s staff was told that a Delaware state investigator asked for and received permission from his boss on a Saturday to access Ms. O’Donnell’s tax records based on a local newspaper article about a civil lien. The lien, it turned, out was issued erroneously.

Mr. Grassley said he was concerned that a simple newspaper article that alleged no criminal wrongdoing could be used to pierce one of America’s most protected privacies, tax information.

He is pressing for more information on what safeguards the IRS is using to stop such snooping and whether the system used by Delaware state officials may amount to an unmonitored back door into confidential IRS tax records.

“The state says it looked at Ms. O’Donnell’s federal records because of a newspaper article describing a federal tax lien against her,” Mr. Grassley said. “Does the state look at every taxpayer who faces a federal lien or only those who happen to appear in a newspaper article? Is it routine for a state employee to email his boss about looking at a taxpayer’s records on a Saturday, when the article appeared? It’s hard to evaluate what happened in the O’Donnell case without answering these questions, and I’ll continue to work to get more information.”

Mr. Grassley’s staff also was told that Delaware officials do not think they kept any of the computerized records showing when their investigators accessed Ms. O’Donnell’s tax records because such searches are stored for only three months before they are deleted or destroyed.

The access was believed to have occurred in March 2010, the same month Ms. O’Donnell formally launched her Senate campaign that shocked the Delaware establishment by defeating Republican favorite Michael Castle in the primary election.

“So far, it appears the department destroys the access records after a short amount of time,” Mr. Grassley said. “That’s puzzling. Unless the IRS has a back-up, and I hope the IRS does, there’s no way to know how and when Delaware state employees accessed Christine O’Donnell’s federal tax records.”

Mr. Grassley also noted that if records are routinely destroyed, this also would cast doubt on the state explanations.

“If the records were destroyed, it’s also hard for the state to support its statement that its record access occurred only in response to a public report, and not before,” he said.

The timing of when Ms. O’Donnell’s records were accessed remains in dispute. Even though they claim to have no records, Delaware state officials have said they believed the access occurred on March 20, 2010, only after a public story about the IRS lien against Ms. O’Donnell was published.

But Ms. O’Donnell told The Times last week that when investigators alerted her in January that her confidential tax records were breached three years ago, they told her the date was March 9, 2010.

That date was the same day Ms. O’Donnell scheduled a news conference to announce her Senate run. It’s also the same date the IRS admitted the lien against her was mistakenly generated by a computer and sent to Delaware.

The Times reported last week that the Treasury inspector general for tax administration had discovered at least four cases in which a candidate’s or donor’s tax information was inappropriately searched.

In one case, the investigator said the violation was willful and referred it to the Justice Department, which declined to pursue the case.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said last week he was baffled that the Justice Department declined to prosecute a government employee who apparently knowingly pried into tax records of a political candidate or donor, and that there should be a way for victims to know their rights have been violated.

Delaware state officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Patrick Carter, director of the state’s division of revenue, said last week that they believe employee “properly conducted a review of federal tax records.” Mr. Carter identified the employee as David Smith, an auditor.

“A state Division of Revenue investigator accessed records on or after March 20, 2010, following information that came to the attention of the division,” Mr. Carter said in a statement. “The record access led the state revenue investigator to conclude there was no basis for further state investigation of a taxpayer and no action was taken by the state Division of Revenue against the taxpayer.”

He said that his division reviewed the accessing in December and “again found state access of the records of the taxpayer was part of a typical review and was not improper.”

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*VIDEO* Funny Or Die – Public Service Announcement: How To Fight Back Against NSA Snooping


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H/T Independent Journal Review

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Obama’s Snooping Excludes Mosques… Is Anyone Surprised?

Obama’s Snooping Excludes Mosques, Missed Boston Bombers – Investors Business Daily

Homeland Insecurity: The White House assures that tracking our every phone call and keystroke is to stop terrorists, and yet it won’t snoop in mosques, where the terrorists are.

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That’s right, the government’s sweeping surveillance of our most private communications excludes the jihad factories where homegrown terrorists are radicalized.

Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee.

Who makes up this body, and how do they decide requests? Nobody knows; the names of the chairman, members and staff are kept secret.

We do know the panel was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel’s formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.

Before mosques were excluded from the otherwise wide domestic spy net the administration has cast, the FBI launched dozens of successful sting operations against homegrown jihadists – inside mosques – and disrupted dozens of plots against the homeland.

If only they were allowed to continue, perhaps the many victims of the Boston Marathon bombings would not have lost their lives and limbs. The FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15 attacks, and it did not check out the radical Boston mosque where the Muslim bombers worshipped.

The bureau didn’t even contact mosque leaders for help in identifying their images after those images were captured on closed-circuit TV cameras and cellphones.

One of the Muslim bombers made extremist outbursts during worship, yet because the mosque wasn’t monitored, red flags didn’t go off inside the FBI about his increasing radicalization before the attacks.

This is particularly disturbing in light of recent independent surveys of American mosques, which reveal some 80% of them preach violent jihad or distribute violent literature to worshippers.

What other five-alarm jihadists are counterterrorism officials missing right now, thanks to restrictions on monitoring the one area they should be monitoring?

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Rand Paul To Challenge NSA Snooping In Supreme Court, Asks Phone And Internet Customers To Join Lawsuit

Rand Paul Tells Fox Viewers To Join Lawsuit Against NSA: ‘I’m Going To Challenge This At The Supreme Court’ – Mediaite

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul took to Fox News Sunday to declare his legal opposition to the NSA’s surveillance programs. “I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said.

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“I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” Paul told host Chris Wallace. “If we get ten million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”

Like many lawmakers, Paul drew a distinction between targeted surveillance and the blanket surveillance revealed this week.

“They are looking at a billion phone calls a day,” Paul said. “That doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of primary, it sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy.”

“I have no problem if you have probable cause, you target people who are terrorists, and you go after them,” Paul continued. “But we’re talking about trolling through billions of phone records… That is unconstitutional.”

Paul also said he would introduce the Fourth Amendment Restoriation Act, though he offered few details about the still-hypothetical legislation.

“If you talk to young people who use computers every day, they’re absolutely with me,” Paul said. “What I spend on my Visa each month, that’s my business, where I spend it, and whether I read conservative magazines, whether I subscribe to Fox News, or whether I subscribe to Yahoo or Google – what I do with my private life is my private life. If you suspect me of a crime, have probable cause.”

“So much of our life now is digitalized, that we have to protect it from a snooping government,” Paul said. “We’ve now got a government that appears to target people based on their political beliefs. I don’t want my phone records being given to an administration I can’t trust.”

Paul remembered that the public outrage against SOPA and PIPA legislation last year were somewhat successful in pushing back the laws, and predicted that if people reacted with similar severity to the current surveillance measures, they would be successful in repealing them.

Watch the interview here, via Fox News:

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Obama: Everyone In Congress Knew About NSA Snooping – Congress: No We Didn’t

Lawmakers Rebut Obama’s Data Defense – Politico

President Barack Obama’s chief defense of his administration’s wide-ranging data-gathering programs Friday: Congress authorized them, with “every member” well aware of the details.

Not so, say many members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans alike.

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Typically, members of Congress “don’t receive this kind of briefing,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told POLITICO Friday. They wouldn’t have known about the programs unless they were on an intelligence committee, attended special sessions last held in 2011 or specifically asked to be briefed – something they would only know to do if they were clued in by an colleague who was already aware.

Durbin said he learned about the two programs himself only after requesting a briefing under “classified circumstances” after being urged to do so by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Congressional leadership and intelligence committees had access to information about the programs, he said – but the “average member” of Congress likely wouldn’t have been aware of the breadth of the telephone and Internet surveillance.

There’s no public record of who has attended any of these sessions – and even the Obama administration couldn’t confirm the president’s claim that “every member of Congress” had been briefed.

The White House declined to comment for this story.

And Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) told POLITICO that the classified intelligence briefing sessions he’s attended haven’t disclosed details on the two data-gathering programs as were unveiled this week.

Schock, in Congress since 2009, said he had “no idea” about the phone data gathering, or any briefings for House members to discuss it, until news reports this week.

Like other members who said they learned of the data-gathering efforts when they were revealed in the Guardian and the Washington Post, Schock said the administration classified briefings he’s attended have revealed very little information.

“I can assure you the phone number tracking of non-criminal, non-terrorist suspects was not discussed,” he said. “Most members have stopped going to their classified briefings because they rarely tell us anything we don’t already know in the news. It really has become a charade.”

President Obama’s explanation allows him to sound a nothing-to-see-here note that paints the programs as both prosaic and innocuous. After all, if all 535 members of Congress knew about them, how bad could they really be?

“These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress, and they’re being fully briefed on these programs,” said Obama. “And if, in fact… there were abuses taking place, presumably those members of Congress could raise those issues very aggressively. They’re empowered to do so.”

But as Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) complained to Attorney General Eric Holder during a Thursday hearing, the idea that Congress has been “fully briefed” on these programs is coming as news to many of the lawmakers themselves.

“This ‘fully briefed’ is something that drives us up the wall, because often ‘fully briefed’ means a group of eight leadership; it does not necessarily mean relevant committees,” Mikulski said.

In theory, briefings on the electronic surveillance programs were available – and offered – to every member of Congress. In practice, they were regularly given to those on the House and Senate Intelligence committees – and haven’t been offered all members of Congress for the past two years, except by request.

Justice and intelligence officials conducted a dozen briefings for congressional committees and leadership between May 2009 and October 2011, and FBI Director Robert Mueller briefed the House GOP conference and House Democratic caucus in May 2011 ahead of the last the Patriot Act reauthorization. The administration also asked that classified white papers be made available to all members of the House and Senate in 2011, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was last re-authorized.

So senators not on the intelligence committee would only have learned of the program had they attended one of those classified briefings in 2010 or 2011. Then, the committee invited all 100 senators to read a classified report on “roving authority for electronic surveillance” in a secure location in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Asked Thursday if she knew how many senators had taken the time to read the report, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) responded: “I do not, certainly the Intelligence Committee should have.”

Congress last reauthorized the FISA provision of the Patriot Act in in May 2011, with the Senate voting 72-23 in favor, and the House approving the measure by a 250-153 count.

It is not known how many members reviewed the intelligence papers prior to those votes. And it’s not clear how many members of Congress have pursued classified briefings on their own. But it’s not hard to find members of Congress this week who say the latest reports are the first they’ve heard of these programs.

There are now nine senators and 61 congressmen who were not in office during the 2010 and 2011 briefing sessions – new members of Congress like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who have never been personally informed of either program unless they asked about it.

“Americans trusted President Obama when he came to office promising the most transparent administration in history,” Cruz said Friday. “But that trust has been broken and the only way to earn it back is to tell the truth.”

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) wrote “not quite” on Twitter in response to a reporter’s tweet about Obama’s remark that “every member” was aware of the data-gathering programs. Long wasn’t made available to explain his tweet Friday.

And Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told MSNBC Friday that he received a briefing only because he “sought it out,” not because the Obama administration had offered it to him.

“I had to get special permission to find out about the program,” Merkley said. “It raised concerns for me… When I saw what was being done, I felt it was so out of sync with the plain language of the law and that it merited full public examination, and that’s why I called for the declassification.”

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