Just What Did Lois Lerner Do to Her 'Crashed' Hard Drive?

The current epicenter of the IRS scandal is the hard drive of Lois Lerner.

According to the IRS, the official at the center of the agency’s targeting scandal suffered a catastrophic hard drive crash in 2011. With that crash, she lost emails from January 2009 to April 2011 — the period during which she is suspected of targeting conservatives.


But Lerner did not lose all of her emails. Just the ones that go to people who work outside the IRS. The IRS was able to recover the others.

It’s difficult to make sense of that. Even if Lerner’s hard drive was used in a nuclear bomb test, her emails still lived on IRS Microsoft Exchange email servers.

The IRS says it recycled backup tapes, and erased all of those emails every six months. But what about people at the agencies Lerner was communicating with? What about their email servers? Lerner’s emails should be on them, or on their backups. Have they been checked?

Problem: We don’t know which exactly agencies and entities and their staff are involved. Well, Lerner does. But she has invoked Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. So she isn’t talking.

But back to her hard drive. White House lawyer Jennifer O’Connor testified this week that Lerner’s hard drive was “imaged.” Imaging a hard drive takes a full set of all of the data on that drive. So that preserved Lerner’s emails, right?

Well, no. O’Connor says that Lerner’s hard drive was imaged in May 2013 after the scandal broke. That’s roughly two years after Lerner’s alleged crash. So that’s a different hard drive altogether.


Lerner’s 2011 hard drive crash must have been truly extraordinary. The IRS claims that once that crash happened, it could not retrieve any of the data from it.

Sure, that’s possible. But data is routinely recovered in full from “crashes.” Data recovery company My Data Recovery highlights the case of a woman who used an external hard drive to back up her data, until that drive apparently died. It wouldn’t power on. My Data Recovery says that it was able to recover 100% of the data on that drive.

But that story is a commercial for a specific data recovery service. It’s a claim in advertising. Here’s another — a hard drive that was burned in a fire and soaked by the building’s sprinklers. 100% of the data on it was recovered, according to the company’s ad.

How about the story of the scientist who spilled acid on his hard drive? Full data recovery.

The woman who accidentally sent her USB drive through the washer at home? Full data recovery.

A company that suffered a fire in its office which melted data CDs to their cases? Full data recovery.

How about the story of the hard drive that had become an ant hive? Full data recovery.


None of those stories are in an ad for a data recovery company. And they’re not new. They were published in 2007, when data recovery was not as accomplished a skill as it was in 2011, or 2014.

Lerner’s drive allegedly crashed in 2011 and was subjected to attempts at data recovery. Without success. And it was recycled, so the IRS says, meaning that it was physically destroyed.

That hard drive was not, as far as anyone has said, burned, soaked, run through a washer, had a run-in with acid or been turned into a home by ants before the data recovery attempts, before the IRS decided to destroy it forever.

Just what on earth did Lois Lerner and/or the IRS do to that hard drive, before they “recycled” it?


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