- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

In a very clever year-end column the venerable William Safire writing in the New York Times asks whether “special prosecutor David Barrett’s 400-page expos of political influence within the Internal Revenue Service and the Clinton Justice Department” will be the government report “most likely to resist investigative reporting” this year. I certainly hope not.

The misuse of the IRS and Justice Department has a long record going back to Richard Nixon and Watergate and before that to Franklin Roosevelt and his harassment of former Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon and publisher Moses Annenberg. Wealthy individuals such as Mellon and Annenberg can protect themselves — though Annenberg was cruelly sent to jail. Ordinary citizens cannot, and the way the IRS is set up today not much provocation is necessary to instigate a costly investigation — costly to ordinary taxpayers.

People familiar with the Barrett Report claim that during his investigation of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, Mr. Barrett came across illegal IRS and Justice Department activity in the Clinton years that involved corruption and infringements on the civil liberties of private citizens. A whistle-blower in the IRS, John Filan, delivered up an 18-page blueprint sketching out the illegal activities and perhaps identifying the victims. Sources claim it contains some of the most illuminating revelations of IRS misconduct ever. Lawyers at the Clintons’ ever-reliable Washington firm of Williams and Connolly have bottled up the report since it was finished in August 2004. Democrats and a couple of incompetent Republicans have seen to it that the report is gutted. This month the gutted report will be made public. The date is Jan. 19. Mr. Safire seems to want investigative journalists to get the rest of the report out. Frankly, I would like to see our elected legislators on Capitol Hill get the whole, unredacted report out.

If Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had his way, the unredacted report might get out. His committee has oversight of the IRS and he thought a month or so back that he had the agreement of the three-judge panel overseeing Mr. Barrett to allow him to receive the unredacted report and make it public for the citizenry to see. Unfortunately, Democrats on the Hill, led by Sens. Byron Dorgan and Dick Durbin, and Rep. Henry Waxman, have thwarted Mr. Grassley’s wishes by late-night legislative subterfuge. They were assisted in this project by two easily confused Republicans, Sen. Kit Bond and Rep. Joe Knollenberg. Now the 120 pages of the report that outline illegal behavior by the IRS and Justice Department during the Clinton administration will be suppressed unless the investigative journalists Mr. Safire hopes for get to work on the Jan. 19 release. Of course, Republican leaders Bill Frist in the Senate and Denny Hastert in the House could weigh in, too.

Just before Christmas one of the perpetrators in the Democrats’ cover-up, Mr. Durbin, the Minority Whip, boldly asseverated that “We will initiate at the beginning of this year one of the most serious debates and discussions on Capitol Hill in our history about individual rights and liberties.” Well, I suggest that Messrs. Frist and Hastert hold Mr. Durbin to his words. Surely, Mr. Grassley will be on their side.

This report by Independent Counsel Barrett is the first time in history that the unique powers of an independent counsel have been brought to bear on the IRS. With Mr. Barrett’s grand jury subpoena power he has, sources familiar with the report say, opened the internal workings of the IRS against private citizens for the first time. For 10 years and at a cost of over $20 million to taxpayers, Mr. Barrett has put together this important report. Surely the taxpayers have a right to see it.

Mr. Durbin has declaimed his desire to look into the state of our “individual rights and liberties.” No agency of the federal government has more power to infringe on our rights and liberties than the IRS. Surely Mr. Durbin should be held accountable for suppressing this report. There are no legitimate grounds for not publicizing it in its entirety. The reports of every other independent counsel have been published in full, save for brief sections containing classified materials. Gutting a 120-page report of detailed government wrongdoing goes too far. Are Mr. Safire’s investigative reporters ready to pounce? Will Messrs. Frist and Hastert rise to their responsibilities? Civil libertarians throughout the country should take note, and so should historians.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is “Madame Hillary and the Dark Road to the White House.”

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