I'm reading this great book by Tim Weiner titled Enemies, a History of the FBI in which Weiner sets out what he learned about the FBI from numerous interviews, publicly available sources, and J. Edgar Hoover's own secret files. The files were obtained by a Washington lawyer through a FOIA request for a writer who was no longer interested when the files finally arrived 26 years later. The lawyer offered them to Weiner who snapped them up and wrote a very interesting history of the FBI.
These days the top political news story is the Tea Party non-profit applicants for exemption and how the IRS agent's delaying actions may have affected the outcome of the 2012 election. Weiner's book gives the reader a good reminder that government employees can sometimes see their mission as so important that laws don't apply to them.
There doesn't seem to be a bureaucrat around today with quite the power of J. Edgar Hoover who was so intent on ferreting out Communists and terrorists that he ordered his agents to perform all sorts of illegal bug planting and black bag operations. Stop violence before it happened -- that was a guiding principle. Sometimes he acted at the behest of presidents, and sometimes he did it on his own. The result was that FBI agents did things that could have landed them in jail if they had gotten caught.
This brings us to the IRS scandal. The agents who actually committed the acts, or in some cases simply failed to act, may very well have been doing it on their own. But it was all done in an environment where management either encouraged that sort of behavior or looked the other way.
And then there's Barack Obama. He's the J. Edgar Hoover in this picture. He simply lets it be known how much of a threat he thinks certain classes of people are, and the underlings do the dirty work. Just don't leave a paper trail that would lead to the top.