Wednesday federal headlines – June 18, 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 lost more emails of employees in its tax exempt division. The revelation from the House Ways and Means Committee follows Friday’s disclosure that a computer crash eliminated thousands of emails from former division chief Lois Lerner. Investigators now say another six division employees had their computers crash. Among them was Nikole Flax, chief of staff to then-deputy commissioner Steven Miller. Miller resigned last year when the agency admitted it had improperly handled tax exempt applications from conservative groups. Two Republican lawmakers call on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS. (Associated Press)
  • The Homeland Security Department’s top buying honcho is stepping down. Nick Nayak, the chief procurement officer, will leave in early July. He’s been in the job for 3 1/2 years. In an email to staff, he cited several reasons for wanting to leave, including the belief that it’s time for change. Nayak says he’ll seek a private sector job after a short break but would like to return to government at some point. Nayak guided the big Eagle II multiple award contracts and other strategic sourcing initiatives for DHS. His departure was first reported by the Washington Business Journal. (Federal News Radio)
  • How’s this for irony: As millions and millions of baby boomers hit retirement, the Social Security Administration is shrinking. A study by the Senate Special Committee on Aging finds Social Security has closed 64 field offices in the last five years, while reducing ranks by 11,000. The agency has also closed more than 500 temporary mobile offices used to serve retirees in remote areas. The agency is pushing seniors to use online services. A committee hearing scheduled for today will look into the matter. (Associated Press)
  • Congress continues to examine claims of employee discrimination at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Two employees will appear before a House panel today after receiving subpoenas. They both say they have been victims of discrimination and retaliation. One, who works for the Office of Consumer Response, says his managers have made mistakes because of their lack of experience. This is the third hearing on employee relations at the bureau. The agency already has changed its performance evaluation system from several tiers to pass-fail. Its labor union says that should reduce opportunities for bias. (House)
  • Five tech giants are going to court to try to stop the federal government from accessing data stored outside the United States. The companies say a magistrate judge erred in April when he ruled that the government can access email files that Microsoft stores in Ireland. The judge reasoned that the warrant he signed was not carried out in Ireland because the data would be open in the United States. But Microsoft, Verizon, Apple, Cisco and AT&T all say the ruling increases doubts by foreign governments and others that data they entrust to U.S. companies is kept confidential. The companies are asking a district court judge to reverse the magistrate judge’s ruling. A hearing is scheduled for late July. (Associated Press)
  • The Education Department has extended a student loan contract with a company critics say should be cut off. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal, Education has renewed its loan processing contract with Navient, a former division of Sallie Mae. Last month, the company paid a $97 million settlement for allegedly overcharging military members for loan services. The ALF-CIO and the National Education Association urged Education not to renew. Officials say it would irresponsible to cause interruptions for borrowers while the department reviews the contractor. Navient collects payments on $166 billion of federal loans to 6 million borrowers. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Navy amphibious transport dock ship in the Mediterranean Sea is now home to a suspect in the Benghazi attacks. The Pentagon says Special Forces captured Ahmed Abu Khattala over the weekend on the outskirts of the Libyan city. The Justice Department will prosecute him in federal court for his role in the 2012 attack that killed four Americans. The military says there were no casualties during the capture, but it’s not clear why it took so long. Last summer, Abu Khattala spoke with the Associated Press. He denied involvement in the attacks. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama discusses options for Iraq with top Congressional leaders today. It seems airstrikes are off the table right now, in part because of intelligence gaps. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the outbreak of civil war in Syria have put key sections of both countries out of the reach of U.S. spies. Intelligence analysts are tracking leaders of the military group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, through data provided by partners in the region. Officials say they are also using U.S. satellites, drones and communications intercepts by the National Security Agency. (Associated Press)