[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
By DAVID CAY JOHNSTON
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,
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
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
"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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