Foreign and Defense Policy, Defense

The national security implications of the IRS scandal

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

A new Fox News poll is out today which finds:

Two-thirds of American voters (66 percent) think the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups as part of a high-level operation to punish political opponents. Far fewer — 23 percent — think it was a mistake by a handful of lower-level IRS employees…

Even Democrats, by a seven percentage-point margin, are more likely to think the targeting was a punitive measure ordered by higher-ups.

In addition, most voters continue to believe the Obama administration knew about (40 percent) or was directly involved in (28 percent) the IRS treating conservative groups unfairly.

Think about that. Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe that Obama either knew or ordered the IRS actions targeting conservative groups. Even more stunning, 48% of Democrats believe Obama either knew or directed the IRS action.

This poll points to a major problem: The IRS actions have eroded the basic compact of trust between the government and the people. And that is having reverberations beyond the IRS scandal.

It is having an impact on national security.

For the past week, I have been defending the Obama administration on the NSA surveillance leaks. In my Washington Post column and TV and radio interviews, I have tried to explain that Big Brother is not watching you, no one is listening to your phone calls or reading your emails.

Those are facts. But people don’t believe it. If this administration abused its power at the IRS, they ask, why should we trust them not to do the same at the NSA?

It’s a fair question.

The details of how we collect signals intelligence on our enemies — and the restrictions we place on the NSA to protect civil liberties — must, of necessity, remain secret. If we reveal them to the American people, we reveal them to al Qaeda — and that makes it easier for the terrorists to evade detection. That means these programs, which are vital to our national security, require a basic compact of trust between the government and its people.

That compact of trust has been gravely damaged. Many Americans simply are not willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt that his administration is not abusing its powers at the NSA — because his administration did abuse its powers at the IRS.

So the actions of the IRS have not only harmed the specific groups targeted, they have put our national security at risk.

7 thoughts on “The national security implications of the IRS scandal

  1. What I would like to know is what is going to be done about it? The government is out of control. The rule of law is a myth. Is the problem going to get better or worse? What is going to stop it from getting worse and cause it to get better? I can’t envision anything stopping this degeneration into chaos.

  2. Thiessen: “The details of how we collect signals intelligence on our enemies — and the restrictions we place on the NSA to protect civil liberties — must, of necessity, remain secret.”

    How about knowing the generalities? Just how are NSA employees and the political operatives of our government prevented from bad acts? What keeps them from mining that data to blackmail or influence citizens, companies, political enemies (the other party) and political competitors (the same party).

    We already live under a government where crimes (violations of law) are punished by resignation. Later, these criminals do something else for their party, usually in other government jobs. That isn’t a punishment, it is a cost of doing dirty business.

    Military analysts have a philosophy: “ability must be considered to be intent”. If an enemy has a weapon, we must assume that he will use it. The only question is how to deter or defend against that use.

    The government has assembled, and will do more to assemble, a vast database on the people. It will be used to track enemy communications, OK. It will also be used to attack citizens and opponents. The only question is, what are the real safeguards and penalties which will deter that despicable use?

  3. Well said. The basic problem is that government is much to too large and intrusive. Period. Demand limited government.

  4. For the past week, I have been defending the Obama administration on the NSA surveillance leaks. In my Washington Post column and TV and radio interviews, I have tried to explain that Big Brother is not watching you, no one is listening to your phone calls or reading your emails.

    Those are facts. But people don’t believe it. If this administration abused its power at the IRS, they ask, why should we trust them not to do the same at the NSA?

    This is pure BS. Why was it that Joseph Nacchio was jailed on trumped up charges for doing what every other CEO or director does in his position AFTER he denied the NSA access? When the law says a company cannot disclose contracts with security agencies how is a CEO supposed to disclose the increased revenues from those contracts before he buys shares of his company? And if that really is a crime why aren’t all the CEOs and directors of all the other companies that play ball with the NSA not charged for doing the same thing?

    As a foreigner who is a great admirer of the very principles that the United States was built upon it saddens me to see so many good people act as sheep rather than stand up for their rights. If you really care about your country it might help if you stood up for the Constitution rather than those that abuse it.

  5. As the “compact of trust” between the people and their government erodes, calamity awaits. As reflected by the abysmal approval ratings of Congress, there is no hope it can stop and repair the erosion. At the federal level, lying, cheating, willfully disobeying the law, obfuscating, deflecting, misrepresenting the truth, and generally failing to be held accountable and responsible for ones actions are no longer the exceptions, but are rather the rule. Seeking to attain and retain political power has become the sole purpose of politicians. Elect and re-elect, at any cost. As long as we accept career politicians without morale compasses who seek power for power’s sake, the erosion of trust will continue. Enacting term limits, by law (very unlikely) or by the ballot (somewhat unlikely in gerrymandered districts), is a first good step towards breaking the hold of elected officials controlled by special interest groups (from both the left and right). Unfortunately, the erosion will most likely continue until it causes some major damage. Then we, the people, may act to correct the trend of career politicians.

  6. IMPORTANT! Please, sign this petition.

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    Let’s disarm public enemy #1 and replace the IRS with the FAIRTAX.
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    • How hypocritical is this? You want the government to hunt down and kill a whistleblower who exposed its illegal spying on American citizens but get pissed off when the IRS targets conservative groups? Don’t you think that some of the information gathered by the spies can be used to target any group the government does not like? So why the two different stands?

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