Following up on my post from Sunday about the Washington Post burying the lede in their story about the Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service office, the New York Times has a similar story up Monday that essentially confirms that the targeting of Tea Party groups came from the top.

The Times reports:

During the summer of 2010, the dozen or so accountants and tax agents of Group 7822 of the Internal Revenue Service office in Cincinnati got a directive from their manager. A growing number of organizations identifying themselves as part of the Tea Party had begun applying for tax exemptions, the manager said, advising the workers to be on the lookout for them and other groups planning to get involved in elections. (Emphasis added.)

That is the article’s lede, by the way. Further down in the story, we get this:

It is not yet clear which manager in Cincinnati asked for an initial keyword search of Tea Party applications, Congressional aides said. One of the employees that the House committee is seeking to interview this week, Joseph Herr, had been a manager in charge of the group of specialists in Cincinnati from its inception through August 2010, according to the aides.

Yet the Times, oddly, doesn’t seem to grasp the import of this information. Most of what follows portrays the Cincinnati IRS staffers as apolitical bureaucrats just trying to do their job as best they can. That may be so, but it is kind of beside the point if we now know they were acting on orders. The real question is: who provided those orders?

As I noted on Sunday, the Post recently quoted an anonymous Cincinnati IRS staffer as saying:

“We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . . That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.” (Emphasis added.)

All of this certainly appears to contradict the claims we heard last week coming out of the IRS that the targeting was the result of “rogue” employees.

Hat tip: Mickey Kaus.