COMMENTARY
5:00 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Government Abuses Undermine Democracy

Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller, right, and J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, are sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, May 17, 2013. prior to testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller, right, and J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, are sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, May 17, 2013. prior to testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the extra scrutiny the IRS gave Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status.
Credit (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

We’ve been lied to — again.

Now we know the government was targeting certain groups, intimidating reporters, and obscuring details about a terrorist incident. Repression we Americans characterized as par for the course for other governments, but not something routine in the U.S.

We’ve been trying to make sense of an IRS that deliberately stepped up audits of Tea Party organizations, and a Justice Department that justified a stealth subpoena of phone records for Associated Press journalists. Those actions on the heels of an ongoing, politically charged hearing investigating the tragedy at Benghazi.

We’re unsettled and chilled by these actions. Fearful there is more we don’t know. At least for right now the suspicions of conspiracy theorists, who see government snooping and overreach around every corner, don’t seem so extreme.

I’m not naïve. I know our history is replete with cases when our government trampled civil liberties in the name of national security. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and even Albert Einstein were targets of The FBI counterintelligence program, Cointelpro. Between 1956 and 1971 Cointelpro identified civil rights and antiwar groups as a potential threat and kept them under extensive surveillance. And as recently as 2004, the IRS challenged the tax-exempt status of churches talking politics in the pulpit.

Author Stephen King says, “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”

No more lying. President Obama needs to fire those who abused the IRS policies and the press’ First Amendment protection. And we the people demand answers to the lingering Benghazi questions.

Public trust is fundamental to our small-d democracy.

And no less than the leader of the free world understands that.

“If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists, to protect them and to promote their common welfare, all else is lost.” -Barack Obama