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TIGTA keeping emails under wraps in tax exempt probe

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The highly publicized government watchdog report back in May that found the IRS tax exempt division singled out conservative groups for scrutiny often cited internal emails to help back up those findings.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) cited email source material, for instance, in referring to a June 29, 2011 internal briefing paper, which the report said showed how a team of specialists would review any nonprofit applicants with words such as Tea Party or Patriots in a case file.

Democrats have since pointed out that progressive groups faced scrutiny from the IRS, too, accusing TIGTA of cherry-picking evidence. But Republicans say conservative applicants were subjected to more rigorous reviews.

All of which shows that despite partisan disagreements, interest in the report and its methodology remains strong in Washington even now months after its release.

In a recent letter, TIGTA has acknowledged more than 600 pages of email source material that it used to help substantiate just part of a timeline it included in its report.

However, the watchdog office is declining to release even a single page.

TIGTA said in a recent letter that it’s found 656 pages of records in response to a request by Federal Times for emails cited in five pages of the timeline.

However, “we are withholding the documents in full,” the IG noted in a response letter.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

If nothing else, it’s a good primer in some of the sorts of exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act that agencies can and do cite as the basis for shielding records from public view.

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