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Smith: DOJ’s Weak Prosecution of ProPublica Leaker Makes Robust Guardrails to Protect Taxpayer Information Even More Vital

January 08, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Daniel Werfel today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) demanded the IRS provide the Committee with a detailed plan regarding how the agency will protect taxpayers’ private information following high-profile leaks to news organizations in recent years, including by providing an accounting of IRS employee access to sensitive information and implementing robust safeguards to prevent future leaks. 

In the letter, Chairman Smith emphasized the importance of the Committee’s ongoing oversight of the IRS’s failure to protect taxpayer information, as well as a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and reports from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) highlighting unresolved security risks to the safety of confidential taxpayer information at the IRS:

“While Committee Republicans’ requests to date focused on what was being done to get to the bottom of how news outlets gained possession of taxpayer information, the Committee is also concerned about what the IRS is doing to prevent breaches of taxpayer information from happening again. This concern stems from the historic leak of taxpayer information to The New York Times and ProPublica, as well as recent TIGTA reports released this summer which indicate that significant deficiencies continue to exist with respect to the IRS’s ability to safeguard taxpayer information…

“I am pleased that the IRS is taking some action to address vulnerabilities in its system, but I want to understand the full scope of what the IRS is doing to ensure proper congressional oversight over this process and so that we can ensure that another massive leak of confidential taxpayer information does not happen again.”

The letter to IRS Commissioner Werfel is the latest step in the Committee’s oversight of the agency following the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive, legally protected taxpayer information to the New York Times and ProPublica by IRS contracted employee Charles Edward Littlejohn. The Department of Justice’s inadequate prosecution of Littlejohn fails to deter future IRS employees from leaking sensitive taxpayer information and makes additional safeguards to protect this information essential. 

Read the full letter to Commissioner Werfel here.

READ: Government Watchdog Says IRS Needs to Address Critical Safeguard Weaknesses

READ: Ways and Means Republicans Demand DOJ Answer for Inadequate Charging Decisions for ProPublica Leaker

READ: Smith Demands Timely and Public Answers from IRS Watchdog on Investigation into Leak of Taxpayer Private Data