WSJ: NSA programs cover 75% of Internet traffic, keeps some e-mail content

The National Security Agency’s Internet communications surveillance is so vast that it can reach nearly 75% of all online communications, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama has gone to great lengths recently to downplay the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, telling Americans that the government isn’t spying on them and publicly discussing reforms that would protect privacy. But the Wall Street Journal’s report indicates that the snooping programs do in fact retain both email and phone communications between American citizens.

“The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

“The NSA’s filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S.,” the paper added. “But officials say the system’s broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.”

IRS inappropriately asked for conservative groups’ donor lists for a so-called “secret research project”

There’s a long-standing legal precedent that prevents the federal government from accessing information that belongs to private organizations. In 1958, the Supreme Court, ruled that the State of Alabama violated the rights of NAACP members when it demanded information from the civil rights organization, including its membership list.

“Effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association,” wrote Justice John Harlan in the unanimous opinion. “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.”

The Internal Revenue Service, however, doesn’t care. Or, at the very least, the powerful tax agency didn’t care when it was scrutinizing nonprofit organizations, the bulk of which had conservative leanings. Judicial Watch has obtained emails through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in October 2013 in which IRS officials say that donor lists were needed for a unexplained “secret research project”:

Justice Department confirms the Lois Lerner emails still exist, proving that IRS officials are a pack of liars

Well, look at that. The Justice Department has confirmed to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch that the emails of several IRS officials, including those of Lois Lerner, still exist, despite claims that they’d been lost due to hard drive crashes and destroyed backup tapes:

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Justice Department lawyers informed him that the federal government keeps a back-up copy of every email and record in the event of a government-wide catastrophe.

The back-up system includes the IRS emails, too.

“So, the emails may inconvenient to access, but they are not gone with the [broken] hard drive,” Judicial Watch spokeswoman Jill Farrell told the Washington Examiner.

Judicial Watch is now seeking the release of the emails, which Justice Department lawyers say would be hard to find because of the significant size of the backup system.

Yeah, Judicial Watch is probably the least of the Justice Department and IRS’s concerns. The House Oversight and Government Reform and House Ways and Means committees, both of which are investigating the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, aren’t going to care how difficult of a task it will be to recover these emails.

Federal judge orders an independent inquiry into Lois Lerner’s missing emails

A federal judge has ordered an independent inquiry to search for answers into the loss of emails at the Internal Revenue Service, including those of disgraced former official Lois Lerner, who is at the heart of the tax agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton, wasn’t pleased by the IRS’s responses to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.

In an order released on Thursday afternoon, Sullivan instructed the IRS “to file a sworn Declaration, by an official with the authority to speak under oath for the Agency, by no later than August 22, 2014.” That official, whomever it may be, will have to provide detail on the tax agency’s efforts to recover the Lerner’s emails, tracking of hard drives, and policies relating to the destruction of hard drives.

“In an extraordinary step, U. S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan has launched an independent inquiry into the issue of the missing emails associated with former IRS official Lois Lerner,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a release.

“Previously, Judge Sullivan ordered the IRS to produce sworn declarations about the IRS email issue by August 11,” he said. “[Thursday’s] order confirms Judicial Watch’s read of this week’s IRS’ filings that treated as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order.”

IRS can’t get its story straight: Official says he’s not sure whether email backup tapes were destroyed

 Tax agency official says he's unsure whether backup tapes with Lerner emails were destroyed

The Internal Revenue Service just can’t get its story straight as to whether or not Lois Lerner’s emails are still recoverable. Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the emails were lost and could not be recovered before Lerner’s attorney suggested that she may still have hardcopies of some of her records.

Now, according to testimony released by the committee, the IRS official who complies with document request from Congress says that the backup tapes on which Lerner emails are stored could still be lying around somewhere:

IRS deputy associate chief counsel Thomas Kane, who oversees the tax-collecting agency’s document production to Congress, told the House Oversight Committee in private testimony that he’s now unsure if the correspondence is backed up somewhere else.

“I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t,” he told investigators Thursday, according to a partial transcript released by Oversight Republicans on Monday.
“There is an issue as to whether or not there is a — that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the six-month retention schedule,” he said.

Seriously?:Justice Department investigators didn’t know about missing IRS emails until they heard about it on the news

That’s right, folks. Deputy Attorney General James Cole told a House subcommittee that the Internal Revenue Service never told Justice Department investigators about the two years of missing emails from the time period in which the powerful tax agency targeted conservative organizations applying for nonprofit status.

Cole made the revelation during a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs hearing on Thursday. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) asked when the Justice Department learned of the missing emails.

“I think we learned about it after that from the press accounts that were in the paper following the IRS’ notification to the Congress,” Cole replied, adding that investigators were looking at “many different forms and sources of those emails.”

Repeal the 16th Amendment: Missing emails are just a symptom of what’s wrong with the IRS

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says that he’s unable to provide the emails that “mysteriously” disappeared, even though he originally promised that all emails would be turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In this video created by Repeal 16, they show that some legislators are standing up to him, but others feel a need to apologize to Koskinen, effectively allowing him to cover up the corruption rampant in the IRS:

As Congressman Paul Ryan said, “The apology that ought to be given is to the American taxpayer.” Why should we apologize to the man that is obstructing the investigation into the IRS?

According to its website, Repeal 16 is “a national coalition of activists and organizations taking action to repeal the 16th Amendment, and end our corrupting tax system and the oppressive IRS.” That description speaks to the larger problem. The missing emails and Lois Lerner are just symptoms of what’s wrong. As long as the 16th Amendment sticks around, there will be abuse of taxpayers and corruption from the IRS.

And there it is: U.S. Archivist says the IRS did not follow the law when it failed to notify them of missing Lois Lerner emails

U.S. Archivist David Ferriero stopped short of saying that the Internal Revenue Service broke the law this morning, but he says that the powerful tax agency “did not follow the law” when it failed to report the destruction of emails on Lois Lerner’s hard-drive.

Ferriero was one of the witnesses that appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for the second-part of the hearing into the missing Lerner emails. He was asked by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) if the IRS reported the loss of any documents related to Lerner, to which Ferriero said, “No.”

Though Ferriero demurred when asked if the IRS broke the law, explaining that he isn’t a lawyer, but he was clear that the IRS failed to follow the Federal Records Act, which the National Archives and Records Administration is charged with overseeing.

“If they didn’t follow it,” Walberg said, “can we safely assume they broke the law?”

“They did not follow the law,” Ferriero replied.

Watch Trey Gowdy’s awesome take down of the IRS commissioner over the his poor response to the targeting of conservative groups

Trey Gowdy

There were plenty of epic moments at last night’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, but Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) probably won the evening.

The committee wanted answers from Koskinen about why he and his agency haven’t been able to produce emails written by and sent to disgraced official Lois Lerner between January 2009 and April 2011. Republicans on the committee grilled the IRS chief while Democrats largely gave him a pass.

But Gowdy, a former prosecutor, thundered away at Koskinen, explaining to him that the fact that the emails are missing infers that they were going to be bad news for the IRS, which, as the South Carolina Republican explains, is called “spoliation of evidence.”

“When a party has a duty to preserve evidence, or records, and they fail to do so, there is a negative inference that is drawn from their failure to preserve the evidence,” Gowdy told Koskinen. “It’s common sense, right? If you destroyed something, the jury has a right to infer that whatever you destroyed would not have been good for you, or else every litigate would destroy whatever evidence was detrimental to them.”

Gowdy also went after Koskinen for saying that he’s “no evidence of wrongdoing” while also admitting that he hasn’t reviewed the criminal statutes to make that determination. “How would you know what elements of the crime existed?” Gowdy fired back at the IRS commissioner. “You don’t even know what statues are at play.”

Grab some popcorn and watch the video below:

Hey, maybe the NSA has disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) has come up with a creative solution to the Internal Revenue Service’s convenient inability to turnover two years worth of disgraced official Lois Lerner’s emails: get the National Security Agency involved.

Stockman sent a letter to new NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers on Friday asking that the NSA “produce all metadata it has collected on all of Ms. Lerner’s email accounts for the period between January 2009 and April 2011.”

“I have asked NSA Director Rogers to send me all metadata his agency has collected on Lois Lerner’s email accounts for the period which the House sought records,” Stockman said in a press release. “The metadata will establish who Lerner contacted and when, which helps investigators determine the extent of illegal activity by the IRS.”

Stockman’s strategy here is similar to that of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The libertarian public interest think tank recently filed a lawsuit against the over the latter’s failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests related to the Environmental Protection Agency.

CEI sought metadata collected by the NSA that would “shed light on ongoing controversies over widespread use by senior officials of non-official email accounts for work-related correspondence.” The EPA claimed that texts had been deleted in an attempt to get around federal recordkeeping laws.

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