A routine audit by the activist FreedomWorks organization reveals that employees of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the White House, and other federal agencies have logged onto its website more than 3,700 times over a two-year span.
FreedomWorks, a D.C.-based organization that mobilizes volunteers and aids conservative groups, is encouraging other grass-roots organizations to check their websites to determine if they have also had a significant number of hits that trace back to federal servers.
Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks' executive vice-president, tells Newsmax the site received 1,560 visits from DHS servers over a two-year span — an average of more than two visits a day from DHS officials or employees.
The group's leaders say it is not known whether the visits were official inspections of the FreedomWorks site or casual visits from employees who may have a personal interest in the site. DHS has more than 240,000 employees and does not block them from logging onto FreedomWorks.org.
Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks' president and CEO, commented in an email that he found the visits "curious" considering what he termed "the flurry of scandals and abuses coming out of the intelligence-collection agencies of the federal government this year …"
FreedomWorks officials say they would like to know if their organization is under investigation, and whether any agencies outside of DHS may be involved.
"We would appreciate any clarification that the DHS can provide on these questions," Kibbe said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a DHS spokesman issued to Newsmax the following statement:
"DHS leadership has not directed staff to monitor the FreedomWorks website. While we cannot independently confirm those visits to the website, DHS is a large organization with over 240,000 employees who have the ability to visit websites that do not violate the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, for their own personal use — this is true for news sites, political sites, and other online resources."
DHS employees were not the only part of the federal bureaucracy to show an interest in FreedomWorks. Another 812 visits were traced back to servers at the Social Security Administration, FreedomWorks says. Staffers at the Department of Justice, which drew criticism this summer for seizing Associated Press phone records and for accusing a Fox News reporter of being a criminal co-conspirator, logged onto the site 769 times.
Some employees at the IRS — which remains embroiled in a scandal over the targeting of grass-roots conservative groups seeking nonprofit status in the run-up to the 2012 election — were apparently interested in the website as well. They logged on 385 times, FreedomWorks says. But whether they did so in an official capacity remains unknown.
The group's audit uncovered another 235 visits by the executive office of the White House. The White House visits lasted "a huge amount of time," according to FreedomWorks' Brandon, with an average duration of about 20 minutes, he said. He quipped that he doubts the White House has discovered a newfound interest in constitutionally limited government.
The visits from staffers in federal agencies reportedly focused on three specific areas: FreedomWorks' staff pages, blogs, and pages reflecting the group's policy positions.
"I was under the impression that the Department of Homeland Security's main mission was to thwart terrorism attacks on the United States," Brandon told Newsmax Friday afternoon. "Shouldn't they be spending time looking at groups like al-Qaida? What do they fear from FreedomWorks?"
Brandon acknowledged, however, that it is possible some DHS employees logged on simply because they are personally interested in FreedomWorks or support its activities.
During the two-year period in question, he said, the FreedomWorks website received millions of unique visits. He indicated that FreedomWorks is not jumping to conclusions, but has serious questions it would like to have answered.
Toward that end, Kibbe and Brandon are urging grass-roots groups to conduct similar reviews of their website traffic. Knowing whether other groups received a significant number of visits from federal agencies may shed light on the nature of the visits, Brandon said.
He added: "I'm curious if I'm going to start getting phone calls from other groups saying, 'You know what, we checked and we've got the same thing.' Or maybe it is just us."
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