I’ll just refer you over to Ed’s post at Hot Air.
In his opening statement to the House Oversight Committee today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that email isn’t really an official record, and the IRS system isn’t built to preserve it anyway.
In discussing document retention at the IRS, it is important to point out that our email system is not being used as an electronic record keeping system. Furthermore, it should be remembered that not all emails on IRS servers or backup tapes qualify as an “official record,” which is defined (in 44 U.S.C. 3301) as any documentary material made or received by an agency under federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and appropriate for preservation. Accordingly, our agency’s email system is not designed to preserve email. Rather, email that qualifies as “records” are printed and retained in compliance with relevant records control schedules. Individual employees are responsible for ensuring that any email in their possession that qualifies as a “record” is retained in accordance with the requirements in the Internal Revenue Manual and Document 12990 (Record Control Schedules).
That’s a strange thing for the guy who runs the IRS to say. The IRS manual explicitly says that email is an official record and should be preserved.
The IRS’s own manual made it clear that the storage of email was important enough to have permanent backups of their data. “IRS offices will not store the official recordkeeping copy of email messages that are federal records ONLY on the electronic mail system,” and even went so far as to require hard copies “for record-keeping purposes.”
“Permanent” is a key word there. The IRS’ current claim is that it recycles its backup tapes every six months. That’s obviously not permanent. The IRS manual also suggests that there should be printed copies of those “lost” emails. Where are they?
Koskinen can’t claim that he misspoke about this. The quote excerpted above is from his written opening statement.
But he does have at least one out. He hasn’t been at the IRS very long and wasn’t there when the emails got “lost” and the hard drives got trashed. He can say that the IRS was a shambles when he got there, it wasn’t operating by the book, but he’s fixing all that. As for the “lost” emails, well, that’s the last guy’s fault.
Update: The former IRS IT contractor we wrote about the other day comments on Koskinen’s answer:
[Koskinen] said the email system is not being used as a record keeping system. This is true. There are other systems which record keep from the email system. This is what backups and other archive systems are designed for.
Typical weasel response.
The former IRS IT contractor adds that the IRS has no reason to “cry” about lacking funding to modernize its systems.
That’t true. The IRS has just completed a 15-year, multi-billion dollar contract with Computer Sciences Corporation to upgrade its computer infrastructure. The agency spends about $1.8 billion per year on its computer systems.