Exclusive: Former IRS Information Tech Worker Doubts Agency’s Claim to have ‘Lost’ Lerner’s Emails
June 16, 2014 - 3:25 pm
Hardly anyone accepts the IRS’ claim to have lost two years of Lois Lerner’s emails. Those most familiar with government record retention requirements, and the technology used, probably are the most skeptical.
The supposedly lost emails cover January 2009 to April 2011, the period when Lerner is suspected of targeting conservative groups with heightened and invasive scrutiny. Those emails also pertain to communications Lerner may have had with agencies other than the Internal Revenue Service. That’s key, because many suspect that the Obama White House knew about, and may have coordinated, the targeting. Democrats in Congress including Rep. Elijah Cummings are also under suspicion because they publicly called for the IRS to investigate conservative and Tea Party groups before the IRS did so. Email evidence linking Cummings to Lerner and a plan to have the FBI investigate True the Vote, the Texas-based election integrity group that was targeted by the IRS along with several other executive branch law enforcement agencies, surfaced in April 2014.
A former IRS IT specialist is casting serious doubt on the IRS’ claim to have lost the Lerner emails.
This person worked at the IRS facility in New Carrollton, Maryland.
He worked on the agency’s Prime Systems Integration Services contract, or “Prime,” a contract inked between the IRS and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) in 1998 to modernize the IRS’ digital record-keeping system. CSC is the primary contractor, but other well-known companies including IBM, BearingPoint, Northrup Grumman, Unisys and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) are secondary players on the same contract.
The former IRS IT contractor finds it difficult to believe that the IRS could really have lost two years’ worth of Lois Lerner’s emails.
First, he points to the United States Code for government record retention. That code, 44 U.S.C. Chapter 33, governs what a government record is and requires that agencies must notify the Archivist of any records that are destroyed and the reasons for destroying them. The code was put into place after Iran-Contra to keep government workers and contractors from deleting records.
Section § 3309 states that records “pertaining to claims and demands by or against the Government of the United States or to accounts in which the Government of the United States is concerned, either as debtor or creditor, may not be disposed of by the head of an agency under authorization granted under this chapter, until the claims, demands, and accounts have been settled and adjusted in the General Accounting Office, except upon the written approval of the Comptroller General of the United States.”
“These environments were required by federal regulations to be redundant and recoverable,” the former IRS IT worker says. “The recoverability requirements were put into place for exactly the reasons we see today.” Disposal of records outside the statutory standards requires permission in writing.
He says that the IRS uses Microsoft Outlook/Exchange systems, which are backed up using Symantec NetBackup.
He also says that “the IRS is the cash cow of the federal government. When they ask for funding for anything it was granted without discussion.”
In the case of the prime contract and record retention, “The IRS IT projects were fully funded and never lacked for resources. To state ‘Backup tapes were reused after some short period’ is a complete joke. The IRS had thousands and thousands of tapes and ‘Virtual Tape Libraries’ (VTL or non-tape backups based on hard drive storage technologies). There was never a reason to reuse tapes.”
Indeed, the U.S. government has been getting out of the tape backup regime for years. The former IRS IT worker points to this ExaGrid document from 2011. In the document, ExaGrid discusses its work with the federal government to eliminate tape backups in favor of faster and more secure record retention systems.
ExaGrid specializes in disk-based records retention systems.
The former IRS IT worker adds that in his time on the prime contract, “I have worked for many federal agencies and the IRS had some of the best people.”
“This reason is why I scoff at the story being put out. Those folks would not have had such a short retention period for email unless they had it in writing from the highest levels. It would have made the local IT water cooler gossip if the IRS had screwed up and lost tons of email by accident.”
Yet the IRS claims that it lost the emails a year ago, and is only now telling congressional investigators.