Late in the day last Friday (the 13th, with a full moon), the Internal Revenue Service told congressional investigators that it had “lost” two years of Lois Lerner’s emails. Lerner is the IRS official at the center of the agency’s massive political targeting scandal. Lerner disclosed the scandal dishonestly, with a planted question in a conference call just ahead of an inspector general’s report that was imminent. Lerner then blamed the scandal on “rogue” agents in the IRS Cincinnati office. The scandal went all the way up to Washington, as Lerner knew at the time.
Lerner has since pleaded the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In May, the House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. But she is not in jail, and was allowed to retire from the IRS with her pension intact. The House’s contempt charge has been referred to the Justice Department, but if the Obama administration was involved in the targeting, its Justice Department will not conduct a thorough investigation.
The “loss” of Lerner’s emails covers the period from January 2009 to April 2011 — the exact period when the IRS was targeting Tea Party and conservative groups opposed to President Barack Obama’s political agenda. The “lost” emails are emails between Lerner and agencies and people outside the IRS. They could provide evidence that she may have been working with other government entities and even the Obama White House. Obama’s own White House counsel, Robert Bauer, had called for the IRS to investigate Tea Party groups prior to joining the Obama administration officially. Several Democrats in Congress had also called for such investigations. If Lerner was working with them or communicating with them in any way, there were probably emails. But now, according to the IRS, a computer glitch has erased them from the face of the earth.
This isn’t likely, by the way. Government agencies use redundant systems to prevent crashes and to prevent data losses. Government agencies such as the FBI and military offices of special investigations have forensic computer experts who are capable of retrieving data thought to be deleted or lost. The NSA also likely has the capability of retrieving the “lost” Lerner emails. The IRS itself is an investigative agency with forensic computer experts. Were any of these experts or agencies called in to help the IRS with its “glitch”?
Reporter Sharyl Attkisson has some questions for the IRS along those lines…
- Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.
- Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.
- Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.
More at the link.
Update: Commenter Raymond in DC says he used to work in IT for the IRS. And he isn’t buying the “crash” excuse.
The notion that these emails were lost because “her computer crashed” is ludicrous. I know. I used to do computer support at the IRS.
The fact is that mail isn’t stored on user computers but on central mail servers. When I left a few years ago they were using Outlook to access Exchange servers sited at New Carrolton, just outside DC. And those servers were regularly backed up. Even if Lerner’s computer was put through a crusher she could go to another PC, login, and get access to her mail.