Bush Used the IRS, FBI, CIA and Secret Service to Go After Opponents -- Where Was the Fox and GOP Outrage?
Former US President George W. Bush thanks US President Barack Obama during a dedication ceremony at the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the grounds of Southern Methodist University on April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.
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As your kindergarten teacher probably told you, two wrongs do not make a right. But the discrepancy in reactions to wrongs does, indeed, show how Washington so often serves the interests of the political right.
That’s one of the big – if deliberately ignored – takeaways from the reaction to news that the Internal Revenue Service allegedly targeting conservative organizations for extra scrutiny in their larger review of political groups’ tax exempt status. In the last few days, the allegations have generated a wave of national headlines, a congressional investigation,federal legislation and ever-louder calls for impeachment.
Considering the gravity of the allegations against the Obama IRS from the Treasury Department’s inspector general, congressional scrutiny is certainly warranted. However, there’s just one problem: most of the lawmakers and pundits today decrying the use of public resources against a White House’s political opponents had little – if anything – to say about equally troubling revelations about the Bush administration’s deployment of public resources against its opponents. In fact, conservatives said so little back then that Fox News apparently doesn’t even know (or is pretending not to know) the Bush administration used the IRS in the same way the Obama adminstration allegedly did.
And here’s the even more incredible thing: the Bush cabal didn’t just use the IRS for its political hackery – it mounted a full-scale government-wide assault on its enemies, marshaling disparate agencies in its smear efforts.
Bush’s use of the IRS was but one part of that larger assault. As my Salon colleague Alex Seitz-Wald notes today in greater detail, in 2005, Bush’s IRS began what became an extensive two-year investigation into a Pasadena church after an orator dared to speak out against President Bush’s Iraq War. Not coincidentally, the Los Angeles Times reports that the church targeted just so happened to be “one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal congregations.” That IRS church audit came a year after it launched a near-identical attack on the NAACP after the civil rights organization criticized various Bush administration policies.
That is not where the story ends, however. The Bush administration’s crusade against its enemies moved from the IRS into the Secret Service.
Under the Republican president, that law enforcement agency was repeatedly deployed to physically block suspected antiwar activists from attending public presidential events. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the scheme eventually targeted some peaceful antiwar activists for arrest for the alleged crime of “holding up small handwritten protest signs outside the designated zone” of free speech (yes, the Bush White House cemented the precedent that the right to dissent is no longer a fundamental right, but is instead only allowed in certain “free speech zones”). Ultimately, in a case dealing with a man who was arrested for simply telling Vice President Dick Cheney that his “policies on Iraq are disgusting,” the Republican-dominated Supreme Court upheld the Bush administration’s use of “retaliatory arrests” against the administration’s ideological critics.
Then, in 2010, we learned that Bush’s targeting operation was also operating inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recounting findings from the Justice Department’s Inspector General, the Washington Post reported that “the FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience.”
A year later, we learned that along with the IRS, Secret Service and FBI, the Bush administration may have also been using the Central Intelligence Agency against its political enemies. As the New York Times reported, “A former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information” on prominent Iraq War critic Juan Cole. That story had an eerie similarity to the Bush administration’s effort to out CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband’s criticism of that same war.