I write here of the IRS taking aim for "extra scrutiny" of tax-exempt status requests from Tea Party and Patriot groups and the outrageous Justice Department subpoena of telephone records of The Associated Press.
But we would and should expect that the agency would be consistent, fair, non-partisan and impartial in its dealings with the American public and organizations that must seek from it tax-exempt status.
So it's incredibly troubling that the center that handles those requests in Cincinnati put special scrutiny on the applications of Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status. What possible good could come of that? Doesn't anyone remember Richard Nixon?
While one doesn't have to be a fan of the Tea Partiers, you still expect they should be dealt with fairly just like any other group. Here they were not.
It is always wrong when an agency of the federal government becomes an instrument of the administration in power or becomes a power unto itself. Nixon targeted his enemies through the IRS and plenty of administrations have tried to use the FBI for their own purposes -- over and above what the late J. Edgar Hoover did all by his lonesome.
There are legitimate reasons why some organizations might not make the grade to become a tax-exempt entity but they should never have to go through ever-expanding hoops to make their case.
What the IRS officials did was wrong -- and the sooner heads roll, the better.
The Associated Press issue is even more dismaying and not just because I've been around the journalism business since I was in high school.
There is a tacit agreement between sources and reporters that is basically "I won't out you as a source if you talk to me or give me information for a story that's important enough to keep you in the background." For the most part that works well and sometimes it doesn't, but it involves a precious, precious commodity -- trust.
We've all had sources who, when bidden or sometimes not, offer information that has changed the direction of a story or led to looking in a different place for information. Journalists more often than not don't find the skeletons in the closet by opening every door they can find but because someone, somewhere, shined a light on the door we might look behind.
Would I as a source drop a dime if I knew the justice department was gathering up a phone log of the reporter, paper or wire service I'd like to talk to? I think not.
And after this incident, you'll never know when or if the justice department is poking around the phone logs.
It also gathered enough information to illuminate how the AP gathers its news across the board. If there is a constitutional protection of freedom of the press, this certainly impinges on that freedom.
Releasing classified information is a two-way street in Washington -- sometimes those in power want the information out there in the press and apparently at other times they don't.
Most agree the subpoenas center around stories back in the spring of 2012 that told of the CIA thwarting a plot by Yemeni terrorists to blow up a plane headed to the United States.
Republicans wanted hearings as to how the information got out, suggesting the administration leaked the information so that it would look like it was still tough in fighting the war on terror before the upcoming 2012 election.
Special prosecutors were named to check it out and many in Washington have apparently testified before grand juries on whether or not they were the leak of the information. But certainly the phone logs would indicate who had talked to the AP and thus might be the leaker because the logs of the reporters who worked on the story were among those that were gathered.
The subpoena and gathering of the phone logs is not only chilling in its scope but intimidating for the present and future.
Who is now going to call a reporter? Would you if you knew the phone call may be noted?
Indeed, given the way the justice department handled this, do we even know how many other news organizations have had their phone logs pulled and don't even know it yet because the department hasn't alerted them that that is the case?
If you're a reporter for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post or USA Today, would you be wondering if access to your phone log had been sought and granted. If you're Chuck Todd or Andrea Mitchell would you wonder about it when the phone calls from sources start to dry up?
If this intimidating shot across the bow doesn't strike you as an affront and threat to the First Amendment you need to think a little more carefully about the impact on the country.
The large news organizations are capable of fighting back but how about you, fellow citizen? Ready to take on the justice department all on your own? No, didn't think so.
Kendall P. Stanley is retired editor of the Petoskey News-Review. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.