Friday federal headlines – June 7, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Internal Revenue Service officials confirmed to Congress they wasted taxpayer dollars on a conference in 2010. Faris Fink now runs IRS’ small business division. He told the House Oversight Committee he should have monitored conference planning more carefully. Fink played Mr. Spock in a Star Trek-themed training video prepared for the $4.1 million conference. Separately, taped interviews with employees in the tax exempt division show they believed their work was directed by Washington. One agent said IRS attorney Carter Hull was behind a plan to delay applications from conservative groups. The National Review quotes an IRS source who says Hull is retiring. (Federal News Radio/National Review)
  • A Veterans Affairs database administrator mistakenly deleted nearly half-a- million loan applications and related files. The Federal Times reports, it happened at the VA regional office in Cleveland. Now Ohio vets with disabilities and service members who applied for home loans through the VA could face delays in the process. A VA spokeswoman says settlement closings could be set back up to three days. She says no personal information was at risk. (Federal Times)
  • The House passed its version of a 2014 Homeland Security Department budget. It would provide $45 billion. That’s about 2 percent more than sequestration would otherwise allow. The bill was sent to the Senate, which is considering a slightly more expensive bill. The House bill would boost spending for Border Patrol agencts and first responder grants to local governments. One amendment would improve cell phone service on the border with Mexico. House Republicans added an amendment to continue deportation of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. (Federal News Radio)
  • The director of national intelligence has declassified details about a major surveillance program. At the same time, James Clapper criticized the leaks that made two programs public. The British newspaper The Guardian revealed a National Security Agency program of scooping up large quantities of data about Verizon telephone customers. A day later, the Washington Post reported on how NSA gathers information from Microsoft, Google, Apple and other online companies. Clapper says both programs are legal and reviewed regularly by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. (Federal News Radio)
  • First the IRS, now the Environmental Protection Agency is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups. House Republicans want details of an investigation the inspector general is conducting. EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe requested the audit last month after repeated news stories alleged the EPA refused to waive open-records fees from conservative groups. The agency does waive them for some environmental organizations. (House)
  • Call it intuition. The Homeland Security Department says that’s all border agents should need to seize travelers’ laptops and copy the data stored on them. The department has released a redacted version of its 2011 argument. In it, DHS says the practice does not violate a passenger’s constitutional rights. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the practice in March, arguing that it hijacked a person’s digital life simply because they crossed the border. But that ruling applies only to the jurisdiction and not the rest of the country. A similar case is pending in federal district court in New York. (Federal News Radio)