In a move that has left many Tea Party activists furious, the Department of Homeland Security deployed officers Tuesday to multiple IRS offices where the Tea Party held protests. The protesters rallied in response to the IRS policy of targeting the applications of 501(c)(4)s whose names included terms like “Patriot,” “Tea Party,” and “9/12” for extra scrutiny. The scandal, which has seen members from both parties express their anger, has also prompted multiple lawsuits from conservative groups.
Although no incidents were reported at any of the protests, the presence of armed Department of Homeland Security agents is reinforcing the narrative that the Obama administration is attempting to bully conservative groups. Many conservative blogs have published strong reactions to the news and are linking it to a broader theme of incompetence in the administration. One also posted this video of DHS at a protest in St. Louis.
Paul Joseph Watson at Prison Planet writes, “The DHS appears to have finally found a use for all those bullets it’s been buying," and the Fire Andrea Mitchell blog added, "Amazing how Obama can send out his storm troopers for peaceful IRS protests by the tea party, yet couldn’t bother with the ‘bumps in the road’ in Benghazi.”
According to accounts from the scene, a law-enforcement helicopter was dispatched to monitor the Los Angeles protest and DHS agents told protesters to vacate the federal property. Even on a smaller scale, a lone protester in Fort Wayne, Ind., was accompanied by a DHS unit.
In 2008, DHS released a memorandum stating, “You are prohibited from collecting or maintaining information on U.S. persons solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as the First Amendment protected freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly and protest.” However, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report in 2012 saying that “more often than not,” the information collected by DHS fusion centers was “unrelated to terrorism.”
While no government agency has responded to Tuesday’s events, the Department of Homeland Security has in the past asserted its right to monitor peaceful advocacy groups, despite complaints from the ACLU claiming that DHS overstepped its authority. This incident adds yet another layer to the growing controversies that have surrounded the White House in the last two weeks.