Paul Jacob

“If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.”

In his day, Mr. Jefferson was attuned to a hyper-partisan, mudslinging, muckraking, bulldog press corps, not our modern mainstream media lapdogs. Today, with our government taking on more and more while competently performing less and less, the public needs more mud slung and more muck raked.

Yet, the Washington Post that had been slung onto my driveway Saturday morning carried not a single word, much less an in-depth story, about the Internal Revenue Service scandal that strikes at the very core of a free versus an authoritarian society: the ability of citizens to organize and speak out politically.

Let’s review:

  • The IRS admits to unfairly blocking Tea Party groups from effectively engaging in public policy by delaying them from forming non-profit groups.
  • As Congress investigated, Lois Lerner, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, took the Fifth, refusing to testify (retiring, instead, to collect her lavish pension).
  • Now, a year after Congress made a formal request for Ms. Lerner’s emails, late on a summer Friday, the IRS casually tells Congress that — oops — Lerner’s computer crashed way back when and all her emails during the critical period from January 2009 to April 2011, when the targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups was taking place, have been incompetently — but oh-so-conveniently — lost.

That’s not news? Not worth a mention?

The Washington Post isn’t alone; I couldn’t find any online reporting by The New York Times or The Chicago Tribune or The Los Angeles Times, either. Maybe I missed something, but The Wall Street Journal headlined their editorial,

The IRS Loses Lerner’s Email
And other news that the Beltway press corps won’t cover.

Tom Jefferson’s fears have been realized: We have mega-government without properly functioning newspapers. Thank goodness for the Internet, cable news and social media that provide other avenues for information.

This IRS email glitch reminds many folks of the 18.5-minute gap in one of President Richard Nixon’s recordings of White House phone conversations. Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, said she made “a terrible mistake” by accidentally recording over that length of another conversation.

That was news, certainly, back in the day.

Even beyond the scandal itself, simply as a matter of allowing the public to understand the level of competence, or lack thereof, in an important federal agency, shouldn’t citizens be informed that the IRS is “challenged” when it comes to data retention and protection?

This is, after all, an agency that is tasked with a lot of record-keeping, not to mention enforcement of the new national healthcare regime.

The Blaze found a newsworthy angle to question the official pronouncement, interviewing Norman Cillo, an IT professional who has worked with Army intelligence and as a program manager at Microsoft. “If the IRS’ email server is in such a state that they only have one copy of data and the server crashes and it’s gone,” Cillo offered, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

He suspects that Congress is “being lied to” by the IRS about those emails.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, though. U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tx.) suggests another common sense method of capturing this important email evidence: the National Security Agency. Stockman sent Admiral Michael S. Rogers, the NSA director, a letter asking the agency to “produce all metadata it has collected on all of Ms. Lerner’s email accounts for the period between January 2009 and April 2011.”

This government knows every phone call we’ve made in more than a decade and every email we’ve sent. It polices the entire world, even tapping the phone lines of foreign leaders. And it always seeks to expand its role in every facet. Surely the NSA can locate those emails at the center of the IRS scandal that somehow someone forgot to back-up.

There would be something especially droll about a government fulfilling its leader’s promise of transparency courtesy of its most secretive agency.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.