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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/26/13

Benghazi, IRS, AP stories: A shameful double standard

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Firstly, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top Pentagon officials testified that the four-man special operations team referred to in the hearings, or any other ground forces, could not have made it to Benghazi in time to prevent the last two of the four deaths. Furthermore, the team had to be airlifted on a Libyan C-130 transport plane and the US government did not have immediate clearance from the Libyan government for that.

Secondly, the initial press releases that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration rather than a pre-planned attack were based on the intelligence reports available at the time. Even though there were protests occurring at the time in several countries over a trailer for an anti-Muslim film, it was obvious to many at the time that the attack in Benghazi was not about a movie.

Thirdly, it is unclear why references to a terrorist attack were not subsequently made and the White House has yet to explain the ambiguity in their press releases, but that does not prove that the attack was preventable and the administration failed to do so. It also does not help the GOP's case in proving that the Obama administration covered up terrorism when it was revealed that the emails were altered before being released to the press.

Lastly, but not least, the real issue that may be scandalous is being overlooked by both parties and the media. When US personnel were airlifted from Benghazi the night of the attack, there were seven Foreign Service and State Department officers and 23 CIA officers onboard. This fact alone indicates that the consulate was primarily diplomatic cover for an intelligence operation that was known to Libyan militia groups.

Among the questions that have not been probed is why the Benghazi mission, with its large CIA contingent, remained open when other Western countries, most notably Great Britain, had pulled out of Benghazi in the weeks preceding the attacks because of security concerns.

The use of US consulates by the CIA as operational bases without adequate security is practice common to both Republican and Democrat administrations. So is the pursuit of a foreign policy that led to the overthrow of the previous Libyan government that angered the militants and put US diplomats in a precarious position there. Perhaps lawmakers and the media should be questioning that.

IRS Targeting Conservative Groups

Within days after the latest round of Benghazi hearings, another "scandal" erupted when it was revealed that the IRS gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups claiming tax exempt status under 501(c)(4) of the IRS code and that some of their applications were delayed.

Organizations are allowed 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status if they can demonstrate to the IRS that they are primarily engaged in "social welfare" and not politics. That is, the group has to be "primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community," but they should not be primarily engaged in partisan politics or electioneering.

The difficult part for the IRS is how to make that distinction, especially considering that since the Citizens United ruling the number of applications for 501(c)(4) status doubled. Neither Congress nor the IRS has defined 501(c)(4)"-s sufficiently, leaving the door open for IRS auditors to make up their own, discriminatory rules

IRS employees are given little or no guidance as to how to do that. The use of keywords in identifying individuals or groups for whatever reason is standard practice in all government agencies. Republican leaders, furthermore, admitted today that there is no evidence that the White House had anything to do with the targeting of conservative groups.

It is more likely that IRS employees chose to ask additional questions of groups that use the words "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names not because of some political vendetta, but because they knew no other way to do so. Even considering, however, that many of the groups that were given extra scrutiny by the IRS are blatantly engaged in political activism, it is a form of profiling that should be frowned upon by all Americans.

The larger context of this "scandal," however, goes beyond the specifics of keyword targeting, further questioning and delayed applications. Once again, lawmakers and media have turned the IRS "scandal" into a partisan issue when it is not. The IRS commissioner who resigned today was appointed under the Bush administration and the IRS engaged in the same practices targeting liberal groups such the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church before Obama was elected.

In 2004, the IRS went after the NAACP, auditing the nation's oldest civil rights group after its then-chairman, Julian Bond, criticized President Bush for being the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the organization. "They [the IRS] are saying if you criticize the president we are going to take your tax exemption away from you," Bond later remarked.

In 2006, a group funded by ExxonMobil called Public Interest Watch pressured the I.R.S. to audit the environmental advocacy group, Greenpeace, because it labeled Exxon-Mobil "the No. 1 climate criminal." While the investigation was eventually closed, the IRS acknowledged it acted as a result of Public Interest Watch's complaint.

The author of the Wall Street Journal article, Steve Stecklow, who reported that the IRS targeted Greenpeace on behalf of ExxonMobil, said in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now:

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Gregory Patin is a free-lance writer residing in Madison, WI. He earned a BA in political science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a MS in IT management from Colorado Tech. He is politically independent and not affiliated with either (more...)
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