Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is continuing to press the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on its weak response to leaks of protected taxpayer records to ProPublica. Grassley was joined by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee and Finance Committee Republican members in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking him to continue conducting oversight of the massive data breach that was published by ProPublica.
The letter comes nearly six months after ProPublica began publishing confidential, private and legally-protected taxpayer information that it apparently obtained from an unknown source. So far, the IRS and Biden Administration have shown little regard toward the haphazard handling of private taxpayer data. ProPublica unabatedly continues to publish articles naming individual taxpayers while the IRS, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice have all failed to identify the source or sources of the leaked information.
“[…]ProPublica continues to publish what appears to be confidential taxpayer information that is protected by law, and as Commissioner, you have been a proponent of the IRS being allowed access to even more information from taxpayers and a significant and mandatory enforcement budget. The fact that the source of the information ProPublica continues to publish remains unknown means that the ability of the IRS to safeguard information already entrusted to it also remains unknown. It is possible that ProPublica obtained whatever information it has at one time from a specific source. However, if the ProPublica information was leaked or hacked from the IRS, and the IRS is unable to even determine if a leak or hack took place, this could indicate an ongoing and persistent problem with IRS information technology (IT) systems and the ability of the IRS to safeguard taxpayer information,” the senators wrote.
The letter notes known deficiencies in IRS systems and highlights data and privacy security vulnerabilities involved in contractor relationships. The senators also request further, detailed information about the IRS’s efforts to determine a source of the leaks, and what the IRS has done to resolve open recommendations for curing deficiencies.
The leak or hack of private taxpayer information and unauthorized disclosure to advocates at ProPublica cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. The public needs to know that personal information provided to the IRS remains confidential, and not available for targeting or political agendas, especially in light of current efforts to expand private information collection on American taxpayers.
Grassley has long called for further oversight of the ProPublica leaks. He first called on Attorney General Merrick Garland in June, the IRS in August and the Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration in October.