TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 954

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal: The Obama Secrets Regime: Republicans Ban the IRS From Private Email. But Why Not All Federal Employees?, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Some scandals come on fast, and some creep up on Washington. The slow-rolling outrage of 2015—Obama administration secrecy—received a small correction in this week’s omnibus budget bill, but it deserves far more attention. It’s time for the federal government to come back on the grid.

A steady drip of news has shown that for seven years now, the highest (and lowest) echelons of the Obama administration have conducted the people’s business in secret, via private email addresses and other hidden electronic means. They’ve been doing so in contravention of department guidelines, executive orders and statutes that require record-keeping and public accountability. Since those rules are well known and understood, it has to be assumed that they’ve been doing it purposely, to hide their actions.

The New York Times on Thursday revealed the latest email-hider: Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Mr. Carter was confirmed in February, and from the start used a private account to correspond with aides about everything from legislation to media appearances. He may well have discussed far more serious, classified matters, but we don’t know. That’s because we must rely on Mr. Carter’s word that he turned all his work correspondence over to the Defense Department. Just as we must trust that Hillary Clinton didn’t delete anything official from the private server she used as secretary of state. ...

One irony of these scandals is that, in seeking to keep government business secret from Americans, officials make it more available to foreign enemies. ...

Disgraced former IRS official Lois Lerner used two off-reservation email addresses, as well as an internal instant-messaging service that didn’t archive conversations. ...

Republicans this week included in the omnibus bill a rider that bars IRS employees from using private email for work. The question is why they stopped there. Conservatives complain ceaselessly about the Obama administration’s extralegal or abusive practices, and the record shows a main conduit for these shenanigans is private email. Since we can have no confidence they will provide a full record of their private correspondence, the wiser course is to bar it entirely. For every federal employee.

The best excuse any Obama official has been able to come up with for these accounts is “convenience”—and that’s a hoot in today’s world of easy-to-use technology. More to the point, who ever said federal employees are due “convenience”? They aren’t the average American. Quite the opposite. They serve the average American, and a core duty is to create a public record of their work. If Republicans want a 2016 issue that will resonate with the public, here’s one: End the Obama Secrets Regime.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/12/the-irs-scandal-day-954.html

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Comments

So... What happens when IRS employees are moved into a bureaucracy with a different name and the same responsibilities?

Posted by: Oliver Shank | Dec 19, 2015 10:52:22 AM

Why just the IRS, indeed. I'd make it a firing offence for any Fed employee to use private communications channels for gov business. Out the door, and the union be damned.

Posted by: mojo | Dec 20, 2015 7:35:56 AM

The great majority of federal and state employees are not issued PDAs or phones by their employers. As a result, many use personal phones, smart phones, etc. when they are away from their offices. Obviously, you have never worked for the gubmint.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 20, 2015 11:36:46 AM