IRS launches safety review after Republican criticism, right-wing threats

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The Internal Revenue Service will launch a full security assessment of its national facilities, Commissioner Charles Rettig announced Tuesday, as congressional Republicans and far-right extremists lash out at the agency and the new funding it will receive in a massive spending bill.

“We see what’s out there in the field of social media. Our staff is concerned for their safety,” Rettig told The Washington Post in an interview. “The comments being made are extremely disrespectful to the agency, the employees and the country.”

In a letter to employees sent Tuesday, he wrote that the agency would conduct risk assessments for each of the IRS’s 600 facilities and evaluate whether increased security patrols along the building’s exterior would become the restricted area designations. increased, security around entrances would be investigated and exterior lighting would be assessed. It will be the first such assessment since the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people.

“To me, this is personal,” Rettig wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Post. “I will continue to do everything I can to dispel any persistent misconceptions about our work. And I will continue to advocate for your safety wherever I have an audience. You do your best every day and I am honored to work with each of you.”

The IRS will receive $80 billion in new funding over 10 years as part of President Biden’s groundbreaking Inflation Reduction Act. The money is intended to help the agency increase tax fraud controls and increase enforcement of high-income and large corporations, including a major recruiting campaign to help the IRS make up for more than a decade of underfunding.

But Republicans have seized funding from the publican to attack the bill, including funding to tackle the climate crisis and lower health care costs. GOP members of Congress have falsely claimed that many of the agency’s 87,000 new hires will be armed and that the new enforcement measures will target low- and middle-income taxpayers and small businesses.

Many Republicans have made unwarranted comparisons between the IRS’s new enforcement funding and the FBI’s search for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

“They have 80,000 employees. You know what the IRS has too? 4,600 guns. 5 million ammunition. Why? Democrats want to double its already massive size,” said Kevin McCarthy (Calif.)

“With this newfound power, the IRS will poke around your bank account, your Venmo, your small business. Then the government will shake you down for every penny,” he added. [the FBI’s search of Trump’s residence]let me ask: do you really trust this government’s IRS to be honest and not abuse their power?”

“Think about it: If the left will arm the FBI to loot President Trump’s personal residence, they will certainly arm the IRS’s new 87,000 agents, many of whom will be trained in the use of deadly force, to get behind every American citizen,” Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) said this month on the floor of the House.

sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote an open letter to job seekers last week discouraging them from applying to the IRS. His letter is based on a job posting for an IRS detective — a position that requires search warrants and arrests — to suggest that all new IRS employees “should be “ready to check and investigate your fellow hardworking Americans, your neighbors.” and friends, you must be ready and, to use the tax authorities’ words, willingto kill them.”

In fact, of the IRS’s more than 78,000 employees, fewer than 3,000 work in criminal investigations and carry firearms.

“This is a bull’s eye for the reputation of the IRS staff and the IRS and our country,” said Rettig. “… That speech [about armed IRS agents] needs to be put into context about what might be accurate and what might be absolutely false, and that seems to be missing from the dialogue out there. This country would not function without a functioning tax administration.”

Employees told The Post that the right-wing rhetoric has raised concerns that employees could be targeted from their workplace or in public if identified as IRS employees.

David Carrone, chairman of the Louisiana-Arkansas National Treasury Employees Union, has spent the past few days trying to allay colleagues’ concerns and persuade them not to leave the agency.

“This frightens me. This is why I don’t tell people I work for the IRS,” an employee wrote to him this week in an email, which Carrone read to The Post.

Lorie McCann, president of the Chicago-area division, has reminded union members not to wear their work ID badges outside the office so as not to draw undue attention. Some colleagues who work in private buildings leased by the IRS have asked about security improvements in their workplaces. Others who work in federal buildings have told her they are concerned that their facility could be targeted by domestic terrorists, she said.

“The fact that employees are scared — I’m afraid — that’s sad,” said McCann, who has been with the agency for 31 years.

NTEU President Tony Reardon wrote to Rettig on Saturday asking the commissioner to launch a security investigation.

“Employees are really concerned that all this negative rhetoric and the climate that has developed as a result could lead to actual threats to employees,” Reardon told The Post.

IRS employees say they have been chastised by years of threats and intimidation against federal employees, especially those of the IRS, which has long been an enemy of right-wing extremist groups. The agency experienced sporadic but ongoing violent attacks between the 1970s and 1990s, when extremist groups targeted the IRS to express wider anti-government sentiments, experts say.

In 2010, a Texas man flew a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, killing an agency employee and injuring 13 others after specifically embracing anti-tax conspiracy theories. Earlier this month, a gunman attempted to break into an FBI office in Cincinnati days after the agency searched Trump’s home.

That created even more security concerns, IRS officials said.

“You have to look at the broader context where it’s not just this issue about increasing the IRS budget, but it’s about this moment when our government agencies are being attacked verbally and otherwise, left and right, right now. The IRS will be included in that,” said Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

Memes and other posts circulating on social media have resulted in GOP talking points about the IRS calling for violence against federal employees, Pitcavage and other experts told The Post.

A channel sponsored by the far-right extremist group Proud Boys on the social media platform Telegram echoed the lie that new IRS employees “must be prepared to use deadly force”. Other online memes compared IRS employees to Nazi SS officers and suggested taxpayers host a “tea party” and tar and feather tax collectors.

A Republican nominee for the Florida legislature called on residents to “shoot the FBI, IRS, ATF and all other FBIs on sight.”

“Our democracy is in crisis,” said Lindsay Schubiner, who studies anti-government movements at the Western States Center think tank. “And every week we see the impact of increasing political violence directly linked to the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology.”

Drew Harwell contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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