While IRS officials were targeting Tea Party groups for special scrutiny of their 501(c)3 tax exempt applications, the IRS also hired a policeman who had been prosecuted by the Justice Department — and convicted in federal court — of using his access to the FBI’s NCIC system to tip off a terror suspect about the bureau’s surveillance. The leak wrecked a major terror investigation.
He is still at the IRS.
Weiss Russell (he has changed his name from “Weiss Rasool,” the name under which he was convicted), is currently employed as a financial management analyst in the IRS Deputy Chief Financial Officer’s Office.
In 2008, Russell/Rasool was prosecuted for his role in tipping off Abdullah Alnoshan, a close associate of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a friend of Russell’s from their mosque. According to the Justice Department’s Statement of Facts filed at the time of Russell’s indictment, Alnoshan provided license plate numbers to Russell for cars he believed were conducting surveillance on him. Russell then checked those plate numbers in the FBI’s NCIC database, which came back to a leasing company which federal prosecutors claimed would have tipped off Russell to the bureau’s surveillance.
He left a phone message for Alnoshan that the FBI intercepted.
Prosecutors also claimed that on more than a dozen instances, Russell checked his name, the names of relatives, and other friends to see if they were listed on the Violent Crime and Terrorist Offender File on NCIC without an authorized reason for doing so.
According to the Washington Post, Russell’s tip-off to Alnoshan actively obstructed their investigation:
The target was arrested in November 2005, then convicted and deported, according to court filings in Rasool’s case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanine Linehan said that the target and his family were already dressed and destroying evidence at 6 a.m. when agents arrived to make the arrest, indicating that they had been tipped off.
While prosecutors had requested jail time for Russell after he failed a polygraph just a week before sentencing, the judge sentenced him to two years of probation. He continued on the Fairfax County police force while an internal affairs investigation was conducted. Reportedly, he was eventually given the choice to resign or be fired. He resigned in August 2008.
Chris Farrell, director of investigations at Judicial Watch, told PJ Media:
Somebody like Russell who betrayed his oath as a police officer and was convicted in court essentially for aiding and abetting the subject of an open terror investigation has absolutely no business with any position of trust and responsibility with the government.
If as reported he holds a top financial analyst position within the IRS, it’s not just a disgrace to a discredited agency but an insult to the American public. Russell has already betrayed his country and shown that he can do enormous damage and abuse his authority and powers, which he is now free to do within the IRS.
Farrell said that Judicial Watch would be opening their own line of inquiry into Russell’s hiring and employment with the IRS.
An IRS official speaking anonymously to PJ Media said that Russell’s financial management analyst position would have required him to fill out the Standard Form 86 questionnaire for national security positions and to be subjected to a background check.
There’s no way anyone with his conviction for abusing access to a government database and damaging a terror investigation could have been vetted and approved without outside intervention. Changing his name shouldn’t have mattered.
I’ve never even heard of a case like this.
The IRS, currently facing accusations of illegally disclosing tax information of perceived political opponents for partisan gain, has hired a man already convicted of abusing sensitive government data.
Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations targeted by the IRS during the Obama administration continue to raise the issue of the weaponization of the agency. These groups will undoubtedly have even more questions: they landed in the IRS crosshairs just as Weiss Russell/Rasool was allowed to become a trusted employee.
Phone messages left yesterday and today with the IRS Media Relations Office have not yet been returned. This story will be updated if they do provide comment.