July 9, 2013

Even Lawrence O'Donnell isn't talking about the real IRS scandal. Yes, he's been vindicated and Salon's timeline of events demonstrates just how badly the media blew the whole story. But still, the IRS is doing scandalous things, but no media outlets are talking about it.

Here's the real scandal. The IRS is releasing information that is private, confidential, and includes people's Social Security numbers. It is pure incompetence and shows just how behind the times they are with regard to best practices and privacy issues.

Here's a statement from Public Resource about it:

Public.Resource.Org has discovered that the Internal Revenue Service has posted the Social Security Numbers of tens of thousands of Americans on government web sites. The database in question contains the filings of Section 527 political organizations such as campaign committees. This Section 527 database is an essential tool used by journalists, watchdog groups, congressional staffers, and citizens. While the public posting of this database serves a vital public purpose (and this database must be restored as quickly as possible), the failure to remove individual Social Security Numbers is an extraordinarily reckless act.

On July 2, Public.Resource.Org discovered this systematic violation of Americans' privacy and notified the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. We documented our findings in an audit document, copies of which were furnished to I.R.S. officials and senior White House officials. On July 3, the administration removed this database from public view.

Public.Resource.Org uncovered this serious violation of federal law in the course of an unrelated audit which was sparked when, on June 18, the I.R.S. notified Public.Resource.Org that it had sent out an improperly-vetted shipment of data on DVD for the January release of the Form 990-T, the Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return. Because the I.R.S. had publicly released that data in February, and had not notified recipients of the bulk data subscription of this privacy breach for several months, Public.Resource.Org conducted a systematic examination of the breach and how it was handled and delivered that audit to the Inspector General on July 1, 2013.

But wait, there's more:

The tainted political money database run by the government on the Internet is just one symptom of a deeply broken dissemination strategy the I.R.S. has insisted on pursuing. The I.R.S.deliberately dumbs down the e-filed returns of big nonprofits, many of which are able to hide lavish compensation schemes, excessive fund-raising expenses, and other expenditures that have little to do with public benefit.

If you read through the entire release, it appears as though Public Resource is saying that the IRS intentionally released a tainted database in order to shield non-profits from transparency and scrutiny by the public and by journalists. Because of the data breaches, they requested that the database be pulled from public view, which means none of us can actually access the data and use it properly.

That's a scandal. A big one. And if it isn't repaired and those databases released soon, we'll all lose the ability to know who is lying to us about our politics, our politicians, and our elections.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.