SYNDICATED COLUMN: Investigating the Investigators

IRS Targeting is a Scandal, CIA Targeting is Business as Usual

“We’re fighting for you!” That’s what the Democratic Party tells Democratic voters and what the Republican Party tells Republicans. But even their “battles” reveal how similar the two parties really are.

Case study: what gets investigated.

Less than a week after the news broke that the IRS engaged in ideological profiling in 2011 and 2012 — targeting Tea Party-related non-profits for checks into whether they were violating the terms of their tax-exempt status by spending donor money on political ads — top Democrats joined their GOP counterparts to demand a Congressional investigation. That’s lightening quick for government work — and yet not fast for some. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida, ’16 prez prospect) called for Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to resign immediately. President Obama called the IRS’ actions “outrageous” and “contrary to our traditions.” The IRS has already apologized.

This all goes to show that the federal government can turn on a dime when it wants to do something. It’s a matter of priorities. Millions of Americans whose homes were stolen by banks in illegal foreclosures waited five years for $600 settlement checks that bounced; the Fed gave the executives of those banks $7.77 trillion in a matter of days, no questions asked.

So it goes with what gets investigated.

Thrown under the bus in a matter of days, the IRS is already getting ground to mincemeat. Meanwhile, a spectacular panorama of Bush-era abuses have yet to draw the attention of a single Congressional subcommittee.

The 2000 stolen presidential election fiasco? Still no investigation — even though retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the swing vote in the 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore, now agrees with constitutional lawyers who say the high court had no jurisdiction in the case and thus shouldn’t have heard it.

There still hasn’t been an independent investigation of 9/11.

No one has ever been questioned, much less held accountable, for the invasion of Afghanistan (ostensibly to catch Osama bin Laden, though he was already in Pakistan), the installation by the U.S. of the unpopular Hamid Karzai as a U.S. puppet, huge cash bribes paid to Karzai by Bush and now Obama,  or the lies — an impeachable offense — about Saddam’s WMDs used to con the public into war against Iraq.

People outraged by Bush’s torture program, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention of innocent people, including children, at post-9/11 gulags at places like Guantánamo, the “salt pit” at Bagram and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia — even on prison ships on the high seas — hoped that President Obama would make good on his campaign promises to investigate these horrific crimes against international law, U.S. law and common decency. Instead, he obstructed justice — another impeachable offense — issuing a directive to his Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies to ignore them. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he told a TV interviewer on January 12, 2009, eight days before taking office.

“At the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe,” he said. “I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.”

Yes. God forbid our heroic torturers should face any questions about jamming forced enemas up prisoners’ butts. Sorry: I meant our extraordinarily talented torturers.

And, now a flashback to April 14, 2008 — a mere nine months earlier. Candidate Obama told The Philadelphia Inquirer: “If I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law.”

Except the CIA. And the military. And Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice and Dick Cheney and John Yoo and, of course, George W. Bush, who explicitly authorized the torture and other high crimes, and is now an elder statesman with his own library and everything.

To recap:

Both parties think it’s bad bad bad for the IRS to target right-wing pseudo-nonprofits for audits.

Both parties think it’s perfectly fine A-OK doubleplusgood to target the buttholes of random Muslims you kidnapped from Afghanistan or Yemen or wherever.

What the IRS did was, of course, wrong. But I’d rather be audited than butt-raped. Butt-raping, especially butt-raping that occurs before illegal auditing, should be investigating before illegal auditing.

Both parties also agree that if there’s ever been something that doesn’t need investigating by anyone, ever, it’s drones. Yes, a whopping 1.8% of Congress recently held an “unofficial hearing” (toothless PR stunt) and politely requested that Obama provide “further clarification of the legal justifications behind drone strikes.”

But no one —not even Vermont’s token “socialist” Bernie Sanders — has called for an investigation into a drone war that ridiculously remains “classified,” a secret to everyone but the dead, the maimed and their survivors. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky, ’16 prez prospect)’s filibuster merely demanded whether Obama planned to drone any U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. (Since he has already droned U.S. citizens on foreign soil, we know the answer to that.)

I’m not Suze Orman, but please let me help you save a few bucks. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, the next time you get a campaign mailer asking you to support them because they’re “fighting hard for you,” chuck that sucker into the recycler. The truth is, the two major parties are on the same page on just about everything.

They’re not fighting for you.

They’re fighting for themselves.

(Ted Rall’s website is His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)


15 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Investigating the Investigators

  1. Aside from the double standards you mention here, I’m itching to see an investigation into the double standards of IRS audits. Going after the teabaggers has been made into a big deal, but no one seems to be putting it into the context of routine abuse of tax audits. I strongly suspect that politically motivated audits are the norm and that it only becomes a scandal when the targets are on the right rather than the left, but I could be wrong.

    I know that the IRS has a long history of spending its strangely limited auditing budget (“strangely” because we all know that this is an expense that generates net income) on poor people when they could be spending it on deep pockets types who are in arrears by millions and can actually pay it when they get caught.

    Who is doing the breakdown of those numbers? Someone must be, but it remains an obscure, wonky thing. As usual, it only becomes a scandal in Washington when conservatives start doing their entitled whining thing.

  2. Ted’s right – there has always been a double standard in the USA, but without an Internet and a constant 24/7 barrage of strident media coverage in every direction or “misdirection’ now, it would not be so glaringly evident. Every local event now has the ability to go viral and become a national event, and every brain fart or misquote from an ‘ofishal’ can become an ‘issue’. With the sinking of the USA economy and the world economic dilema, all this becomes more evident – not just in the USA, but all over the world. One notable exception are the Scandinavian countries so far, which have been able to build a socialist society that has more of a safety net, and heck, so few people and so many natural resources that things can still be managed fairly efficiently……still, that Nobel Piece Prize to Obama was seriously misguided…….:^)

  3. “There still hasn’t been an independent investigation of 9/11.”

    A couple of years ago, Mr Rall was on a radio show and it sounded like almost every caller was a Truther, and Mr Rall dismissed the lot.

    I SAW for myself what happened, and I tend to believe my own eyes.

    Holograms? Bush, Jr carrying the explosives in his pick-em-up truck and packing them into the World Trade Center shafts? We SAW the attacks.

    The attacks were by 19 shebabs, mostly Saudis. They listened, not just to Osama bin Laden, but to the Imams in their mosques, that every person working in the World Trade Center was a heinous criminal who had murdered more than a billion people by their policies that stole resources using unfair economic manipulations that caused death by starvation, by lack of clean water, and by lack of basic medical care. And they heard that the persons who punished those murderers would be martyrs and go immediately to the best part of Paradise.

    A simplistic view of the workers in the World Trade Center, and not one I agree with. But one very common in Saudi Arabia. A country every US President assures us is our BFF.

    It’s not a better investigation of 9/11/’01 that we need, it’s a response that is about justice, not about revenge by killing and imprisoning innocents and subjecting them to ‘enhanced interrogation’ until they confess.

    And there isn’t any such response. The 19 shebabs are dead. In the Middle Ages, they would sentence the bodies of dead criminals to punishments like being drawn and quartered, but we don’t even have any bodies we can draw and quarter.

    The 19 didn’t have or need any huge organisation behind them. They met in Dubai and came up with the idea of hijacking planes without any weapons (easy to get past the scanners that way) then flying the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which only worked because it was totally unexpected, and the protocol for hijackings was to cooperate with the hijackers until the planes were safely on the ground somewhere.

    From Dubai the shebabs went to Germany, from Germany to Britain, and from Britain to the US where the four pilots took flying lessons using simulators in Florida.

    But Bush, Jr had to do something, and Obama has to continue doing something. The 19 were Arab Muslims, so Bush, Jr and Obama have killed more than 100,000 Iraqi Arabs, some of whom were not Muslim, and more than tens thousand South Asian Muslims, almost none of whom were Arabs (some count the dead in the millions). The shebabs were given new and improved itineraries that took them from starting points in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq to the US.

    US agents went to countries with a median income of less than $100 a year and offered 100 years’ income to anyone who would hand over a ‘terrorist’, and sent all those ‘terrorists’ to places for ‘enhanced interrogation’ until they confessed, followed by imprisonment for life without the possibility of a trial, let alone parole.

    I’ve been saying it’s useless for Mr Rall to try to address these injustices, since the majority of US voters fully support the drones, the necessity of punishing Iraq and Afghanistan since they were clearly responsible for the attack on 9/11/’01, the fact that the US has made life far, far better for the Iraqis and Afganis, etc., and that the US has never killed or imprisoned anyone who wasn’t guilty, since the US is the Greatest Force for Good the World has Ever Seen!!!

    But, in a moment of optimism, I note that at least 40% of the voters are in agreement with Mr Rall on the senselessness of wars against people who had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11/’01. So, if Mr Rall and others like him could just persuade another 10%…

    • Common sense can prevail, but it never does unless people advocate for it forcefully. Look how few people support the Afghan war now compared to 2001.

  4. “I SAW for myself what happened, and I tend to believe my own eyes.”

    blah blah blah

    “The attacks were by 19 shebabs, mostly Saudis.”

    Nineteen? Exactly? Not seventeen? Not because somebody told him this, HE COUNTED THEM WITH HIS OWN EYES. And at least ten were Saudi. WITH HIS OWN EYES he confirmed their nationality.

    Well OKEY DOKEY then.

  5. drooling zombies everywhere
    What I saw were 3 planes that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. Then I saw the passports and letters and itineraries of the 19 shebabs. You obviously have no idea what ‘epistomology’ is. The evidence is overwhelming that 19 shebabs, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked four planes and used two of them to destroy the World Trade Center, one of them to damage the Pentagon, and one that the passengers, knowing what was planned, managed to crash in the Pennsylvania countryside.

    Mr Rall:
    Reading the comments on gocomics, there are far too many who say that the drones are killing terrorists and saving American lives. I’m guessing at least 60% of voters are still supporting the drones and the war in Afghanistan. On my optimistic days, I’m hoping you can convince at least 10% that this is wrong, and thereby stop the unjustified killing.

  6. Sorry. I haven’t been able to generate enough of a good goddamn to follow a story about how the IRS is being a bunch of pricks. But I have one question (which may have been answered already in Ted’s article — I just skimmed, I’m very tired from a very busy day): Is the IRS’ behavior of “targeting” the Tea Party groups an instance of profiling? That is, if you’re looking for shoplifters, you hang around malls. if you’re looking for cows, you hang around a farm. Do the Tea Party groups have a greater tendency (and that would have to be shown to have been known BEFORE this all got started) to get, um, creative on their tax forms and classifications?

  7. michaelwme,

    You made some excellent points. One thing I’ll recommend: the documentary “The Merchants of Cool.” It’s a little dated, but the premise holds. And there’s one particular scene I’ll emphasize. A common method used is to pay teenagers to go online to chat rooms (this is back when chat rooms were cool) and advertise an event by talking it up. Then you pay teens to attend the events.

    Without putting on the tinfoil hats, ask yourself. How many people would it take to swing public perception over to thinking that drone warfare was good and proper? How many people are in these discussions of which you write? A few dozen? A few hundreds? With the right computer programs in place, is it possible to have just “several” people producing the majority of these pro-bombing comments?

  8. @michael

    On the contrary, it is very much a better investigation on 9/11 that we need. One that forces Bush and Cheney to testify in full public view, with approrpiate punishments for perjury, about what they knew and when they knew it.

    There is more than enough evidence that suggests warnings of 9/11 were deliberately ignored to justify a full investigation, and I have no doubt that a full and proper investigation (not one hamstrung by a power mad executive branch) would find more.

    Are we, as a people, ever going to get that investigation? Of course not, and you’d have to be mad to think such a think was possible, let alone plausible. What we got was the best that resonable people could expect, given the circumstances.

    (and before I am accused of being Panglossian again, please note the phrases “The best that reasonable people can expect, given the circumstances” and “this is the best of all possible worlds” do NOT mean the same thing and are therefor NOT interchangeable.)

  9. whimsical: ‘what reasonable people expect’ is whatever’s possible.

    Once, someone told me his salary of $50,000 had doubled. I said, ‘You’re making $100,000?’

    His response, ‘I NEVER said I made $100,000. You’re lying if you say I said that.’ And he never said, ‘I make $100,000.’ He did say, ‘My salary of $50,000 was doubled.’ Not at all the same thing.

    So you’re right, while tautologically the same, the two statements are not at all equivalent.


    My objection to the Loony Left saying Bush, Jr should be blamed for 9/11 because he had every warning and ignored them all is that they also tend to say that it’s a lie that Roosevelt had detailed plans that Pearl Harbor was coming. The translator wrote articles verifying that the White House had the plans. Of course, the perfidious Japanese, in violation of the Laws of War, wrote the plans in Japanese, and Roosevelt did not trust any Japanese Americans, or any Nipophile WASPs who had learned Japanese, so the translator (who didn’t know any Japanese) had no idea what the document said until AFTER the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

    But Roosevelt warned Pearl Harbor to expect an attack in late November ’41, so they prepared ‘by the book’. Which meant taking all the Army Air Force pilots and putting them to work preparing defences against an amphibious attack.

    Similarly, Bush, Jr warned the US security forces to expect an attack in the second half of ’01 (and I was almost shot when I got too close to an American embassy in the MENA). And they prepared ‘by the book’.

    Bush, Jr even had the names of many of the hijackers, and knew they were planning to hijack a plane. So they were always stopped and searched to make absolutely certain they had no weapons of any kind (they used the knives and box cutters in the planes’ galleys).

    This was strictly ‘by the book’. You don’t squander resources preparing for an impossible attack.

    The general officers at Pearl, after Billy Mitchell’s trial showed that an attack by aircraft was impossible, did not waste time preparing for such an attack.

    And the Bush, Jr administration, knowing that the attack would be by someone like me doing a suicide attack on a US embassy, or by hijackers with weapons, did not stop hijackers with nothing that could possibly be used as a weapon.

    Of course, the whimsical types note that, after 9/11, the US Constitution was suspended. Now, of course, anyone remotely suspected of thinking about planning a possible terrorist incident can be arrested and held for life without trial or parole and subjected to enhanced interrogation, as is absolutely necessary to keep the US safe. If only Bush, Jr had suspended the Constitution (except for the 2nd amendment) on 9/10, 3,000 lives and the World Trade Center could have been saved.

    So whimsical has a good point.

  10. Alex: The New York Times, from time to time, has articles that say Obama has only used drones to kill terrorists, but what if one of his distant successors uses drones to kill innocents? Should we worry? The comments are mostly, ‘No. Drones kill terrorists cheaper than the alternatives.’ Some comments are, ‘Drones are more selective, and ONLY kill terrorists. Other methods that kill terrorists also kill civilians or put American soldiers’ lives at risk.’

    These articles have hundreds of comments, and one can see which comments were voted most popular by thousands of voters. The results are depressing for anyone who agrees with Mr Rall and the Manchester Guardian that drones have killed 98% innocents. And also that drones are totally and completely illegal, since they make a mockery of due process.

    But (say the comments) This Is War, and due process is not appropriate in a war.

    The New York Times tries to ensure that every comment is by a distinct person.

    The other source of comments that I read is gocomics where Mr Rall publishes. And the comments are equally depressing. Of course, you’re right, we have absolutely no idea who is writing the gocomics comments, it could be just one or two nut cases. But the styles indicate that it’s many more (and hence much worse) than that.

  11. michaelwme,

    That’s the point I’m aiming at. Say you have 99% of people who think that health care is a basic human right. And 1% (already with coverage) think that the current system is perfectly fine. The 1% realize they’re going to lose the argument because 99 comments are for health care, and they’re the lone voice in the wilderness. So the 1% hire a few people (maybe as few as 10), and tell them to each send in ten comments to every health-care story, with each comment being under a different name (sock-puppet accounts are easy to come up with). The 1% might even get a couple people to work on the copy and the talking points, so that the comments being made with help muddy the waters more effectively.

    So now, thank you Internet anonymity and speed, you have 99 people who want change. Five of those 99 are working against their own interests because, well, it gives them a short-term advantage. And one person, paying a tiny fraction of his total wealth, now has the Internet footprint of the 99.

    Before anyone says I’ve got my tinfoil hat on too tightly, go back through what I just wrote, and apply it to the current real-world system of labor. It’s exactly how unions get broken. Am I seriously to think that that tiny fraction of the human race that is so rapacious that it can never reach satiety is NOT going to exploit the Internet to keep us all in chains?

  12. @michael

    whimsical: ‘what reasonable people expect’ is whatever’s possible.

    That’s a load of crap. ANYTHING is possible. Doesn’t mean it’s reasonable.

    It’s like buying a lottery ticket- its possible that I’ll win the lottery. It is not reasonable to EXPECT I’ll win the lottery.

    Most of today’s liberals are the equivalent of people who bought a lottery ticket and quit their jobs EXPECTING to win the lottery- and are trying to punish the guy who sold them ticket because they didn’t win.

  13. Alex: you’re absolutely right. None of the on-line polls are scientifically valid. Sadly, the biennial November polls are legally valid, and those are quite depressing, beginning with ’72.

    The New York Times comments are somewhat moderated, and they try to track the identities of all comments using Facebook. Still not scientific, since the comments are not a random sample.

    Gocomics has no control of any kind (except for deleting comments if enough complaints are lodged). So not at all scientific. And clearly, some commentators on gocomics post multiple copies of identical comments under different names. But one can try to use stylistic clues, and it is clear that a significant contingent (how large it is in the population is absolutely unclear) of Obamabots feel that the drones are killing terrorists and saving American lives, and so are all to the good. Then there are the right-wingnuts, who think Obama is the worst president ever because he hasn’t killed nearly enough terrorists, and his ACA is going to bankrupt the US by making the taxpayer pay for everyone’s healthcare (obviously, the right wingnuts haven’t a clue, but they do have a vote). Again, looking at the gocomics comments is totally unscientific, but does provide a clue as to what some rather vociferous people are thinking.

    And looking at those biennial November polls, which are legally binding, remains depressing.