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Democrat claims Republican, not White House, started IRS targeting of right-wing groups

A self-described conservative Republican who is a manager in the Internal Revenue Service office that targeted tea party groups told investigators that he, not the White House, set the review in motion, the top Democrat on the House watchdog committee said Sunday. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a partial transcript of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform interview with the unnamed manager in the IRS’ Cincinnati office. In it, the employee said the extra scrutiny for tea party groups’ tax exempt status was an effort to be consistent in reviewing applications and not driven by politics. “He is
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Where is gun control movement six months after Sandy Hook?

Six months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, some of the victims’ families are heading to Capitol Hill to remind lawmakers they are painfully waiting for action, while some of the president’s allies are asking him to do more without any new prospects of legislation to toughen gun laws. The lobbying visit Tuesday and Wednesday is one of several observances gun control proponents are planning for the half-year anniversary of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 first graders and six staff in Newtown, Conn. The Sandy Hook families and other activists are keeping pressure on lawmakers to expand background
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American spy boss defends spying on U.S. citizens

Eager to quell a domestic furor over U.S. spying, the nation’s top intelligence official stressed Saturday that a previously undisclosed program for tapping into Internet usage is authorized by Congress, falls under strict supervision of a secret court and cannot intentionally target a U.S. citizen. He decried the revelation of that and another intelligence-gathering program as reckless. For the second time in three days, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper took the rare step of declassifying some details of an intelligence program to respond to media reports about counterterrorism techniques employed by the government. “Disclosing information about the specific methods
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Obama says Americans must learn to live with government spying on them

President Barack Obama is urging Americans to “make some choices” in balancing privacy and security as he defends once-secret surveillance programs that sweep up an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day and amass Internet data from U.S. providers in an attempt to thwart terror attacks. Obama says it will be harder to detect threats against the U.S. now that the two top-secret tools to target terrorists have been so thoroughly publicized. At turns defensive and defiant while speaking to reporters on Friday, Obama stood by the spy programs revealed this week. The National Security Agency has been collecting the
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Big brother monitors just about everything we do

With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials. The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed. Verizon is handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according
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White House in damage control mode over spying on Americans

Moving to tamp down a public uproar spurred by the disclosure of two secret surveillance programs, the nation’s top intelligence official is declassifying key details about one of the programs while insisting the efforts were legal, limited in scope and necessary to detect terrorist threats. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in an unusual late-night statement Thursday, denounced the leaks of highly classified documents that revealed the programs and warned that America’s security will suffer. He called the disclosure of a program that targets foreigners’ Internet use “reprehensible,” and said the leak of another program that lets the government collect
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Does anyone from New Jersey want to run for the Senate?

For politicians, there are few more desirable career opportunities than an open seat in the U.S. Senate. But in New Jersey, where Frank Lautenberg‘s death this week created such a spot — to be filled in a special election in just four months — more officials are announcing they’re out of the race than in it. So far, Republican Steve Lonegan and Democratic U.S. Rep. Rush Holt are the only ones who have said that they are in. A couple more prominent Democrats, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, also are expected to enter the race. On
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IRS agents say supervisors directed targeting of conservatives

Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency’s Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month. The Cincinnati agents didn’t provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators. Her interview suggests
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Misfired email revealed IRS targeting of right-wing groups

A misfired email from a U.S. Internal Revenue Service employee in Cincinnati alerted a number of Washington IRS officials that extra scrutiny was being placed on conservative groups in July 2010, a year earlier than previously acknowledged, according to interviews with IRS workers by congressional investigators. Transcripts of the interviews, reviewed by Reuters on Thursday, provided new details about Washington managers’ awareness of the heightened scrutiny applied by front-line IRS agents in Cincinnati to applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups with words like “Tea Party” in their names. A political furor over the practice has engulfed the tax agency
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White House defends intentional invasion of American citizens’ privacy

The White House on Thursday defended the National Security Agency’s need to collect telephone records of U.S. citizens, calling such information “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats.” While defending the practice, a senior Obama administration official did not confirm a newspaper report that the NSA has been collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order. The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday. The order requires Verizon, one of the
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