(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) says he’s still waiting for the National Security Agency (NSA) to hand over metadata of emails sent by former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner, which he says is an appropriate request by Congress to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal and protect Americans’ First Amendment rights.
On June 13, Stockman sent a letter to NSA Director Michael Rogers requesting that the agency “produce all metadata it has collected on all of Ms. Lerner’s email accounts for the period between January 2009 and April 2011.”
Stockman said he sent the letter just hours after the IRS blamed a “computer glitch” for the allegedly lost emails, which House Republicans subpoenaed in their investigation of whether the IRS inappropriately targeted certain conservative groups for political reasons.
“Your prompt cooperation in this matter will be greatly appreciated and will help establish how IRS and other personnel violated rights protected by the First Amendment,” Stockman said in the letter.
According to a brief filed July 14 by the Obama administration in Klayman v. Obama, the NSA’s information gathering ability “enables analysts to identify, among other things, previously unknown contacts of individuals suspected of being associated with terrorist organizations.” The metadata is used by the spy agency to track the activities of potential terrorists outside the U.S. in order to protect Americans.
But Stockman wants the NSA to use that same ability to protect Americans from possible rogue elements within their own government by determining whether Lerner was in contact with any domestic group or government agency outside the IRS while the division she headed was challenging the tax-exempt status of conservative and Tea Party groups.
“They said they collect all this, and we’re asking for it,” Stockman told CNSNews.com Thursday. “We did not hear back,” he added. “Now I don’t know if they have it or what. That’s kind of a secret what they really do have. It seems to be changing all the time.”
CNSNews.com asked Stockman if getting to the bottom of the IRS scandal was an appropriate use of NSA metadata.
“Well, yeah,” he replied. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Lois Lerner’s friend at the FEC had the same mysterious loss of hard drives and data that she had. Now that’s pretty coincidental, since Lois used to work at the FEC, and her friend had to quit the Federal Elections Commission because there was apparently some impropriety there.
“And if you constantly see that all the people around her, their data’s missing, what my guess is that they’re looking at the emails and deciding that it’s better to destroy the data than reveal those emails.”
Stockman also filed a motion on July 10 to bypass the House Republican leadership and force a vote on whether to order the sergeant-at-arms to arrest Lerner for contempt of Congress.
“It bypasses the leadership if it’s voted on as a privileged motion,” Stockman told CNSNews.com, adding that his staff lawyers are currently conferring with the House parliamentarian on the proper way to proceed since the procedure dates back to 1812 and the last time it was invoked was during the 1930’s.
“My contention is that if you go before a court of law and are found in contempt, the judge usually exercises some kind of solution to that, and it’s usually a threat of incarceration. Now if we pass it, it doesn’t mean she’s going to jail. If she talks and cooperates, as she has done with the Justice Department, then she doesn’t go to jail,” Stockman told CNSNews.com.
“So more or less, it’s just saying hey, go arrest her if she doesn’t talk like in a court of law, except it’s just done in a different branch.”
It’s important that Congress insist that Lerner answer questions to protect its institutional prerogatives, Stockman said.
“There is a great deal of frustration on what does contempt of Congress mean? Does it have any kind of meaning?
"I might point out the President exercises his executive prerogative with a lot more frequency. And what I’m arguing is that at some point you have to mean what you say,” Stockman added.
“And that if you say ‘you’re in contempt of Congress,’ then you need to be [held] accountable for those actions.”