Tuesday federal headlines – June 18, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden keeps on talking. In an online chat with The Guardian newspaper, Snowden said more information about domestic surveillance will come out, even if he is murdered. The Guardian said Snowden was in a secret location in Hong Kong. Snowden said statements by administration officials and members of Congress about him have prevented him from ever getting a fair trial in the United States. During his summit in Northern Ireland, President Barack Obama said he’s set up an oversight board made up of private citizens, and that he’s ordered documents related to surveillance declassified. (The Guardian)
  • Eight new astronauts will report for duty at Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA selected them from more than 6,000 applicants. Half of the eight are women — a record percentage. They’ll join the 49 astronauts now on NASA’s roster. That number has dwindled since the space shuttle program ended two years ago. Many astronauts have quit rather than wait years for missions aboard the International Space Station. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the new class will help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars. (Federal News Radio)
  • It was Cincinnati and not Washington that held up tax-exempt status applications from conservative groups. That’s according to testimony given to House committees looking into the IRS. Holly Paz was until recently a manager in the tax exempt division. She said she reviewed up to 30 applications after they were stuck in the Cincinnati office for nearly a year. Paz described an agency in which IRS supervisors in Washington worked closely with agents in the field but didn’t fully understand what those agents were doing. Paz said agents in Cincinnati openly talked about handling tea party cases. But she thought the term was merely shorthand for all applications from groups that were politically active, conservative and liberal. (Federal News Radio)
  • The acting commissioner of the IRS is about to make recommendations for changing the agency. Danny Werfel could reveal his ideas as early as next week. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told The Wall Street Journal the White House is still committed to holding responsible officials involved in targeting conservative groups. Lew wouldn’t say what changes Werfel will recommend. But he says the White House wants to make sure there is no structural problem within the IRS. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The man once described as having perhaps the hardest and most thankless job in Washington is leaving it. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton is stepping down after four years at the agency. Under Morton’s watch, ICE has removed a record 400,000 illegal immigrants a year. In a message to staff, Morton said he’s extremely proud of the agency’s accomplishments. He said ICE has come of age and he’ll miss the people the most. He said he’s leaving next month to work in the private sector but does not offer more details. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal prosecutors in Seattle say the General Services Administration was tricked into giving a fraudster $25 million worth of used computer equipment. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports prosecutors say Steven Bolden pretended to run education nonprofits so he could take advantage of GSA’s Computers for Learning program, which passes old government equipment to schools and related organizations. Instead, prosecutors say, Bolden was selling the items. He posted some on Craigslist. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)