[FoRK] And then there's this...

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Wed Mar 31 14:53:14 PST 2004

via FoES, thanks.  Nice find.

Now, you tell me...  is this an example of (a) dangerously misplaced  
priorities, i.e. we can spend as much as we want chasing paper tigers  
but nickel-and-dime ourselves to death on the real threats;  (b)  
criminally divergent priorities, i.e. somebody's worried about the  
discovery of certain things, or (c) just plain old incompetence.

Hey, I'm not generally in favor of funding the IRS to do anything AT  
ALL.  But in this case...



I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied

WASHINGTON, March 30 - The Bush administration has scuttled a plan to  
increase by 50 percent the number of criminal financial investigators  
working to disrupt the finances of Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist  
organizations to save $12 million, a Congressional hearing was told on  

The Internal Revenue Service had asked for 80 more criminal  
investigators beginning in October to join the 160 it has already  
assigned to penetrate the shadowy networks that terrorist groups use to  
finance plots like the Sept. 11 attacks and the recent train bombings  
in Madrid. But the Bush administration did not include them in the  
president's proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year.

The disclosure, to a House Ways and Means subcommittee, came near the  
end of a routine hearing into the I.R.S. budget after most of the  
audience, including reporters, had left the hearing room.

It comes as the White House is fighting to maintain its image as a  
vigorous and uncompromising foe of global terrorism in the face of  
questions about its commitment and competence raised by the  
administration's former terrorism czar, Richard A. Clarke, and its  
first Treasury secretary, Paul H. O'Neill.

Representative Earl Pomeroy, a North Dakota Democrat whose question to  
a witness about one line on the last page of a routine report to  
Congress prompted the disclosure, said he was dumbfounded at the budget  

"The zeroing out of resources here made my jaw drop open," Mr. Pomeroy  
said. "It just leaps out at you."

"There are some very tough questions that have to be answered about why  
the decision was made to eliminate these positions because going after  
the financial underpinnings of terrorist activity is crucial to rooting  
terrorism out and defeating it," Mr. Pomeroy said.

The White House would not comment directly on the reasons for striking  
the 80 positions the I.R.S. sought. Claire Buchan, the White House  
deputy spokeswoman, said that a proposed 16 percent increase in  
Treasury Department financing to fight both terrorism and financial  
crimes was enough. The I.R.S. is part of the Treasury Department.

"The president's budget provides a very robust 16 percent increase that  
demonstrates his robust commitment" to disrupting terrorist financing,  
she said.

The proposal would increase such financing to $54.3 million in the 2005  
fiscal year from $46.8 million in the current year.

Juan C. Zarate, the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist  
financing, said that "the I.R.S. certainly had a clear vision of how  
they wanted to allocate the funds, but there is a clear balance that  
needs to happen in the I.R.S., where they have to balance  
terrorist-financing investigations with other responsibilities, like  
drug trafficking and, perhaps most important, enforcement of the tax  

"And,'' he continued, "the administration has to keep its hand on the  
pulse of that balance."

He said not having 80 more financial experts dedicated full time to  
pursuing terrorists' funds and disrupting their networks did not mean  
that no additional I.R.S. agents would be assigned, just that those  
needed would be drawn from other assignments as needed to pursue  
terrorist-financing issues.

Normally the budget requests of agency heads like Mark W. Everson, the  
I.R.S. commissioner, are secret. His request is known only because  
Congress, since 1998, has required the I.R.S. to submit its budget  
proposals first to the I.R.S. Oversight Board, a bipartisan volunteer  
panel of seven financial, management and technology experts that  
Congress created to monitor the tax agency.

The board appeared before the House I.R.S. oversight subcommittee on  
Tuesday to make its case for an increase in the I.R.S. budget that is  
twice the 4.6 percent proposed by the Bush administration. The board  
said the Bush administration's plan would result in further  
deterioration in tax enforcement and warned of a growing tide of tax  
cheating and attitudes that encourage cheating, especially among young  

Representative Amo Houghton, the New York Republican who is chairman of  
the subcommittee, gave 50 minutes to remarks and questions for Mr.  
Everson, who is widely thought to be under consideration for a senior  
post in the Department of Homeland Security.

When the time came for the Oversight Board's presentation, Mr. Houghton  
said he would allot three minutes.

Mr. Houghton then turned his back to talk to two aides and looked down  
to read papers for about half of the four-minute presentation by Nancy  
Killefer, the international management consultant who is chairwoman of  
the Oversight Board.

The board's disclosing that the Bush administration had rejected the  
request for added investigators drew a rebuke from a Republican  
lawmaker who was instrumental in creating the Oversight Board.

"I do think it's a little dangerous" for the Oversight Board to be  
involved in such matters, said Representative Rob Portman, Republican  
of Ohio.

"We did not select you for your expertise on terrorism," he added. "I  
am frankly disappointed the board made this recommendation."

Mrs. Killefer, a senior executive with the McKinsey consulting firm,  
then explained that the proposal came from the I.R.S. and that the  
Oversight Board was saying only that it agreed with the agency and  
supported its proposal.

Mr. Pomeroy, the lone Democrat to appear at the hearing, said he wanted  
to know more about the proposal and the reasons it was rejected. "Do we  
have sufficient resources on this important task?" he asked after the  

"Of course not. If we did we would have heard a lot more about  
successes in bringing down the global financial underpinnings of  

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