“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails … we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” former IRS official Lois Lerner wrote in an April 9, 2013 email to IRS technology employee Maria Hooke.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released new e-mails at a hearing on Wednesday with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen showing that Lerner attempted to hide information from Congress.
Lerner wrote in an email exchange with Hook and IRS Director for Exempt Organizations Exam Unit Manager Nanette Downing,
I had a question today about OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server]. I was cautioning folks about email and how we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails – so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails. Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable – I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speculated in Wednesday’s hearing that Lerner was asking, “Because Congress might get ahold of them and the American people might actually find out what the IRS is doing,”
Jordan said the House Oversight Committee received the emails on July 3rd, part of a 15,000 piece document dump. He described the OCS system as an “intra-office instant messaging chat-type system” that is used at the IRS.
In response to Lerner’s concerns that Congress could search the OCS system, the IRS tech person responded that “OCS messages are not set to automatically save” but warned that “parties involved in an OCS conversation can copy and save the contents of the conversation to an email or file.” Lerner responded, “Perfect.”
Jordan presented a timeline from the Inspector General, noting that on June 13, 2011, ten days after Chairman Camp sent a letter to the IRS expressing concerns about the possible targeting of conservative groups, “a bunch of computers mysteriously crash, including Lois Lerner’s computer.” On March 28, 2013 the Inspector General reported that there was indeed evidence of targeting. Twelve days later, according to Jordan, “[Lerner] says, ‘Perfect’ when she learns that [the OCS is] not traceable, not trackable, not stored.”
“Thirty-one days later she went to a Bar Association speech here in town and told the whole world that Washington had nothing to do with it, even though she tried to make sure her tacks were covered,” Jordan said. “She told the whole world Washington had nothing to do with it. It’s a couple of rogue agents — couple of line agents in Cincinnati.”
In response to Jordan’s questions, Commissioner Koskinen said he had not seen the e-mails and was unfamiliar with the OCS system. He testified that neither the FBI nor the Justice department have discussed the emails related to the OCS system or Lois Lerner’s missing emails with him.
The IRS commissioner also said he did not know why an Exam Unit Manager was copied in the email exchange. Jordan asked why she would have been included, especially in light of recent revelations that Lerner was hoping that Sen. Grassley would be referred for an IRS examination. Koskinen responded, “I have no idea why. None.”