Barack Obama promises swift action on IRS scandal

He was also expected to face criticism for his department’s decision to
secretly monitor phone lines of reporters at the Associated Press (AP) as
part of an investigation into the leaking of classified information.

The news agency has accused Mr Holder’s department of “a massive and
unprecedented intrusion” into press freedom for its aggressive hunt to
locate the source of a story about a CIA operation in Yemen which foiled an
al-Qaeda bomb plot last year.

The simultaneous eruption of the IRS and AP scandals has left the White House
under fire from multiple directions with even normally-loyal Democrats
refusing to come to its defence.

Mr Obama tried to stem the bleeding from the IRS affair with a statement
released late Tuesday shortly after the Treasury published a damning report
into its targeting of Right-wing groups.

“The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its
employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its
employees failed that test,” he said.

The report found that tax officials had inappropriately focused on groups
whose names hinted at conservative political allegiances.

The terms “Tea Party”, “Patriots” or “9/12” – a
popular Right-wing reference to the day after the September 11 attacks –
could be enough to trigger special scrutiny.

Beginning in mid-2010, as the Obama administration was facing widespread
conservative anger over the President’s signature healthcare reform, the IRS
began to compile a spreadsheet referred to as the “Be On the Look Out”

Groups on the list were subjected to a barrage of additional questions,
including in some cases what books its members were reading and if any of
its donors intended to run for political office.

The report concluded that senior officials failed to adequately supervise
staff but did not find evidence that the practice was known about outside
the IRS.

The White House insists that it only learned of the scandal last week but
Republican investigators are now scouring for any evidence that the
administration was aware of the practice and remained silent.

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