Wednesday federal headlines – April 23, 2014

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.

  • The IRS has paid $1 million in bonuses to more than 1,100 employees who owe back taxes. The inspector general says the awards do not violate federal regulations, and they represent only a fraction of the IRS employees who got cash bonuses between late 2010 and 2012. But they don’t jive with the agency’s mission to enforce tax laws. The IRS says it now follows a stricter policy for senior managers — one that more closely ties conduct to performance bonuses. The agency says it has not rewarded any executives who faced disciplinary action. But the IRS does not consider most employees’ past behavior in making bonuses, in part because of an agreement with its labor union. (Federal News Radio)
  • In efforts to stop intelligence leaks, the director of national intelligence tells employees to avoid the media in nearly all situations. James Clapper signs a directive saying only certain authorized officials can talk with journalists. Violating the rule could get an employee fired. Clapper says they could lose their security clearance, too. If they have a problem with the agency, he says, report it through internal channels. The directive applies to unclassified as well as classified information. The Federation of American Scientists first posted the memo online and suggests the policy could undermine the credibility of intelligence-related news. (Associated Press)
  • The inspector general of the intelligence community says agencies fail to disclose employees’ crimes, as revealed by lie-detector tests. The agencies are supposed to alert law enforcement. But the report by IG Charles McCullough cites breakdowns in reporting procedures and poor advice from agency lawyers. McCullough says Intelligence Director James Clapper has agreed to review agency guidelines on polygraph admissions. The report cites glaring examples from National Reconnaissance Office. It says the agency failed to notify police after polygraphs indicated employees had possibly committed crimes from child pornography to drug possession. (Associated Press)
  • The administration has decided to re-open the flow of foreign aid to the Egyptian military. Secretary of State John Kerry informed Egypt’s prime minister yesterday that the Obama administration certifies Egypt is upholding its peace treaty with Israel and, therefore, it qualifies for some assistance. This means the U.S. will proceed to send its Apache helicopters to Egypt’s defense minister — a process that was stalled when the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi. Some believe Egypt is on a pathway towards a democratic government, and once Secretary Kerry certifies that pathway,all assistance programs funded by the U.S. will resume. (Associated Press)
  • An Army commander in Fort Carson, Colo., who wasn’t allowed to deploy with his troops to Afghanistan was suspended with allegations saying he was insensitive toward sexual assault and discrimination victims. Details of Col. Brian Pearl’s suspension are in a 361-page report obtained through a Federal Freedom of Information Act by The Gazette in Colorado Springs. It says Pearl was suspended after making light of a sexual harassment meeting with female officers. Pearl told investigators that he believes his comments at the meeting were misconstrued, and of the 39 witnesses interviewed at Fort Carson, the majority supported Pearl, saying he would do “what he could” to make sure sexual assaults stopped. (Associated Press)
  • The government frequently sends private information to the wrong person. That’s a tidbit from Verizon’s annual look at cyber crime. The report includes information from 50 organizations worldwide, from law enforcement to security companies. But before you panic, Verizon says the facts are misleading. It’s a matter of proportion. The federal government is the nation’s largest employer. It has a massive amount of data on employees and citizens. When security incidents happen, they have to be reported. Verizon says the greater visibility into the government’s mistakes creates the, perhaps wrong, impression that the government messes up more frequently than others. The report finds data theft is less common than other kinds of attacks, like getting a computer user to click on a malicious web link. (Verizon)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology finally removed a crypto algorithm that was compromised by the National Security Agency, Tech Dirt reports. Late last year it was leaked that NSA had arranged a secret $10 million contract with computer security company RSA to create flawed encryption products that contained a “back door.” This product, a random number generator called BSAFE, was quickly denounced by NIST, and the agency urged users to transition away from it. But not until now has NIST finally taken BSAFE off its product recommendation list altogether. (Tech Dirt)