The Big Three's morning newscasts on Wednesday and Thursday all covered the breach of an online IRS system by hackers that compromised the personal information of 100,000 taxpayers. However, none of the programs mentioned President Obama by name during their reporting, nor did they revisit any of the other problems or scandals involving the agency in recent years. [video below] CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News have yet to cover the IRS hacking, as of Wednesday evening.
ABC World News Tonight is the sole Big Three evening newscast to cover the story so far, and was also to first network news program to report on it. On Tuesday, anchor David Muir spotlighted the "urgent warning from the IRS tonight – one hundred thousand Americans – their private tax information hacked, they say." Correspondent Pierre Thomas then detailed the massive data breach:
PIERRE THOMAS: David, tonight, those 100,000 taxpayers will soon be getting some very bad news. Thieves, who had already stolen some of their personal information – including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers – used that information to get past IRS security.
And here's where the story gets worse. Once inside the IRS, they targeted those specific taxpayers – getting more sensitive information commonly found on tax returns – like where they work, salaries, bank accounts, and personal family information. The IRS says it has fixed the problem, and is offering free credit monitoring to those who got hacked. Like I said, David: bad news.
The following morning, Thomas recapped his reporting on Wednesday's Good Morning America, and underlined that the data thieves obtained all the information needed to "completely assume your identity; to empty your bank accounts; even open credit cards and buy cars. This just shows...how sophisticated the hackers have become."
CBS This Morning didn't cover the IRS hacking until Thursday. However, the newscast gave a new detail to the story: that the hacking possibly originated in Russia. Correspondent Jeff Pegues also included the name of the IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, in his report, and how "Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah questions the agency's security standards." However, like Thomas, he didn't mention President Obama in the segment, nor any of the previous problems at the IRS.
NBC's Today devoted the least amount of air time to the story: a mere 42 seconds split between two news briefs on Wednesday.
The transcripts of Pierre Thomas's report from Wednesday's GMA on ABC; Jeff Pegues's report from Thursday's CBS This Morning; and the news briefs from Wednesday's Today on NBC:
07:08 am EDT
ABC – Good Morning America
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to a major security breach at the IRS – criminals stealing personal information, including Social Security numbers, for more than 100,000 taxpayers by hacking into the agency's computers.
ABC's Pierre Thomas is in Washington with that story for us. Good morning, Pierre.
PIERRE THOMAS: Good morning, Robin. Today, the IRS is contacting those 100,000 taxpayers and offering free credit monitoring. Those taxpayers now have to be on alert because their identities clearly have been stolen. Thieves had already stolen some of their personal information – including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers; used that information to hack into the IRS; and once inside, they targeted those specific taxpayers – gaining more sensitive information commonly found on tax returns, like where they work, salaries, bank accounts, and personal family information. These are all the things bad guys can use to completely assume your identity; to empty your bank accounts; even open credit cards and buy cars. This just shows how – just how sophisticated the hackers have become, Robin.
ROBERTS: So Pierre, is the system secure now?
THOMAS: The IRS said it plugged the hole. So the gateway is closed, Robin.
ROBERTS: And I know they said it could have been a lot – it was bad, but it could have been worse.
ROBERTS: All right. Thanks so much, Pierre.
07:14 am EDT
CBS This Morning
CHARLIE ROSE: This morning, the IRS is investigating whether criminals in Russia are behind a cyber-security breach. Hackers stole tax information from more than 100,000 Americans.
Jeff Pegues is in Washington with more on this multi-million-dollar theft. Jeff, good morning.
JEFF PEGUES: Good morning, Charlie. The group responsible stole taxpayers' personal information in taxpayer transcripts to obtain refunds. The attackers claim the refunds using the agency's online 'get transcript' application. Experts say the type of information obtained could be used to open bank accounts and lines of credits. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says the thieves claimed almost $50 million. The IRS is notifying everyone affected, and offering free credit monitoring. Its criminal unit has also launched an investigation.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah questions the agency's security standards. He says – quote, 'that the IRS – home to highly sensitive information on every single American and every single company doing business here at home – was vulnerable to this attack is simply unacceptable.'
The IRS has temporarily disabled the 'get transcript' service. The commissioner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance Committee next Tuesday, along with the Treasury Department's inspector general. Norah?
NORAH O'DONNELL: All right. Jeff, thank you.
07:11 am EDT
NBC – Today
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Here's a headline that popped off the page: the IRS is having to reach out to nearly a hundred thousand people because their personal tax information was stolen by sophisticated hackers.
MATT LAUER: So officials say it was part of an elaborate scheme to claim fraudulent refunds. The entry point for the hackers: an online service provided by the IRS called 'get transcript,' where you can actually download your past filings. That site has now been temporarily shut down.
GUTHRIE: Scary one.
07:31 am EDT
MATT LAUER (voice-over): And if you use the IRS's online system called 'get transcript,' you could be the victim of data hacking. Hackers used it to steal personal information; and then, file fake tax returns. The IRS is reaching out to anyone impacted by that breach.