Hard Drive Containing Ex-IRS Official Lois Lerner’s Emails Reportedly Destroyed. Were There Server Backups?

C-SPANC-SPANYou can probably quit holding out any hope that additional recovery efforts might retrieve some of the missing emails from former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner’s hard drive: The drive, which the IRS says crashed in 2011, just days after Republicans began investigating the tax agency’s scrutiny of conservative non-profits, was apparently thrown away.

House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa subpoenaed the hard drive earlier this week, but he’s not likely to get it. Multiple sources tell Politico that the IRS has indicated that the drive was destroyed.

Congressional investigators are interested in the drive because the IRS says that it contained archives of Lois Lerner’s email correspondence; without the drive, the agency claims it cannot produce emails between Lerner and outside groups or agencies. Lerner was the head of the agency’s tax-exempt division, and she is at the center of investigation, but she has repeatedly declined to answer congressional questions about the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, citing her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

If the crashed hard drive had the only copies of Lerner’s email, then those communications are likely gone forever.

But is the hard drive really the only place those emails would have been stored? Records-retention protocols released by the IRS indicate that before May of last year, employee inboxes were limited, external backup tapes kept only six months of data and were then recycled, and that, as a result, there was no centralized backup of email. Employees were individually responsible for preserving much of their own email correspondence.

Yet just a few months ago, current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—who promised to cooperate fully with the investigation—indicated in a congressional hearing that the emails were not stored on individual computers, but "taken off and stored in servers." Via Townhall’s Guy Benson, here’s the relevant exchange between Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Koskinen:

Chaffetz: What email system do you use there at the IRS?

Koskinen: What email system do we use?

Chaffetz: Yeah, is it Outlook, or…

Koskinen: Yes, we have actually Microsoft -- or at least I have -- Microsoft Outlook.

Chaffetz: So you go on there, and you want to find all of the items you sent under your name, how long would that take?

Koskinen: Well it'd take awhile because they're not all on my computer. They're all stored somewhere….

[Some discussion about how long it might take to collect emails with Lerner’s address.]

Chaffetz: That's [part] of the brilliance of the email system. You go in and you check the 'sent' box, and the inbox, and you suddenly have all of the emails, correct?

Koskinen: Right. They get taken off and stored in servers…

Watch the full clip at the bottom of the post.

It’s of course possible that Koskinen, who is not a tech staffer, just didn’t understand the specifics of the IRS backup protocols, and didn’t know that emails were only stored centrally for a short period of time.

But if Koskinen, who was being questioned about the agency’s compliance with documents requests and surely had to have been briefed on the agency’s efforts to gather documents up to that point, was correct when he said that the emails are taken off individual desktops and "stored in servers," then Lerner’s hard drive shouldn’t be necessary.

It’s also worth asking what Kosinen knew about the destroyed drives and lost emails when he was speaking before Congress: The hearing occurred in March—but according to the House Ways and Means Committee, the agency has known about the crash since at least February, but held off on telling House investigators.

Lerner isn’t the only IRS official whose communications have gone missing thanks to convenient computer troubles. According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the agency says it cannot produce some records for six more employees, including Nicole Flax, a regular visitor to the White House and former chief of staff in the IRS commissioner’s office. Flax's communications were also apparently lost due to hard drive failures. If there are still email records "stored in servers," as Koskinen says, then it would be nice to have them. 

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  • SlowburnAZ||

    Funny... emails have recipients AND senders. Are we to believe that both the recipient and the sender of every pertinent email had their hard drives crash?

    Bullshit.

  • Tonio||

    ^This.

  • SugarFree||

    I would imagine the pertinent emails are going to be covered by executive privilege.

    We already know the IRS did what they have been accused of, all that's happening now is keeping the orders from being traced back to the White House.

  • Tonio||

    Yep.

  • Warren's Strapon||

    How are they going to get those? Subpoena every computer in DC? NTTAWWT.

  • Tonio||

    While I can't speak to the specifics of the email system the IRS uses, how it was configured, etc, I can state that government loves it some records-retention, mostly for CYA reasons. Also, management likes records-retention because if they want to fire someone they can always dig through the records and find some undotted "i", some uncrossed "t", etc.

    Now, there are many levels of backup. Full backups, incremental backups, etc.

    Bottom line is if these records were destroyed it was a deliberate effort to cover something up. If the records are not produced and in a timely fashion I expect to see prosecutions of the people who ordered the records destroyed.

  • Raven Nation||

    I expect to see prosecutions of the people who ordered the records destroyed.

    Hahahahahaha. Good one!

  • Tonio||

    Next you're going to tell me that Santa isn't real, that it's just some wino in a costume.

  • Raven Nation||

    I hate to break it to you but, neither is the tooth fairy, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, nor a real college football playoff.

  • robc||

    4 is better than 2. But I want 16.

  • BuSab Agent||

    The tooth fairy IS real! I know because I am the tooth fairy, as independently confirmed by not only my children but several other children as well. Also I have a box filled with teeth. What more proof do you need?

  • Agammamon||

    What did you do with the children you MONSTER!

  • UnCivilServant||

    I can state that government loves it some records-retention

    If that's the case, why did King Cuomo issue a 90-days 'scorched earth' e-mail non-retention policy when we'd previously been retaining indefinately? The CYA here is to destroy the evidence trails by making sure there are no e-mails anywhere and take refuge in audacity.

  • UnCivilServant||

    *Yes, in general, the agencies want to keep their records, because lifers don't want to be the scapegoat for this or that connected official.

  • Tonio||

    I should have said US federal government which I have some experience with; NY state goverment not so much.

    Plus, as noted below by sesuncedu, there are specific laws governing federal records retention. Can't remember exactly how long.

  • Ivan Pike||

    Plus, as noted below by sesuncedu, there are specific laws governing federal records retention. Can't remember exactly how long.

    In the fedgov, the length of time depends on what the records are for; the general schedule has that info. For records I deal with the time period is forever, literally. But others not so long.

  • Tonio||

    Yeah, I'm going to start digging through and try to find the language that states how long these records should have been retained. May take awhile since the regs are lengthy and convoluted. Invite anyone else with current knowledge of the regs and laws to comment here.

  • Ivan Pike||

    You can start here:

    http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/grs/

    I've posted several comments that even if the hard drive fails, IRS regs. require a printed copy of emails (our requirements are the same).

  • Ted S.||

    Also, management likes records-retention because if they want to fire someone they can always dig through the records and find some undotted "i", some uncrossed "t", etc.

    Unless it's the cops.

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    The IRS standard is that we peon citizens are guilty until we can prove our innocence. If you lose your records, tough luck Charlie, see rule #1.

    The IRS should be held to the identical standard we schmucks are held to.

  • ||

    This is one of the most blatant cases of "it's 100% obvious we're lying, we destroyed the evidence, but you can't prove it and we'll just be able to skate by with that" that I've ever seen.

  • Raven Nation||

    It's pretty much FYTW - which has been the theme of this administration since the 2010 mid-terms.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Years ago, I remember hearing speculation about why Nixon didn't destroy the tapes and whether he'd have gotten away with it if he had.

    The answer then was almost certainly no. What's the answer going to be this time? It's not like anyone really thinks these e-mails were not intentionally deleted or that, for that matter, they don't implicate the president, either directly or indirectly. I bet even lefties think that, except that they also think anything goes when it comes to dealing with nasssty Republicanssss.

  • Tonio||

    This shows the complete moral bankruptcy of the left. They don't realize that this comes back to bite them, too. Government and the left are allies, but government is its own team ultimately concerned with self-preservation. The lefties think they permanently own government, and when they find the reverse is true it will be too late. I will laugh at them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And this dictatorship they're trying to build is far more likely to be held by a right-socialist than a left one. Far, far more likely.

  • WDATPDIM!?||

    They don't think it will ever come back to bite them, because their empire will last a thousand years. Like the Third Reich.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    "They don't realize that this comes back to bite them, too."

    They have the media, entertainment industry and academia, so they know when the other team does this, there will be some consequences.

    Most important though is the media. If this were a Repub Admin, 60 minutes would switch to a daily format.

  • Drake||

    My daughter has taken several computer classes in high school. When the story came up on the news the other night, she laughed and said "that just isn't possible".

    I confirmed for her that everyone speaking on the video was an absolute liar.

  • John||

    Almost everyone has had the experience of thinking they lost something only to have the it guy recover it for them. No one is going to believe this. The leftist who claim to are just pretending. Who knows what the fallout will be. But this is not going to be written off as incompetence of just the Republicans being mean by the public. To the average voter this is an admission of guilt. Maybe that won't hurt the dems but I doubt it.

  • Mr. Soul||

    it's more than impossible. I cannot be accomplished intentionally. Meaning, if I tried to delete my electronic audit trail, there is no way I could.

    If Learner had an on-the-record meeting with all IRS-IT and issued the order to destroy all emails she ever sent or received, they would not be able to do that.

    Plus, they should just ask the NSA for these emails.

  • ||

    This is shockingly blatant, isn't it? We need a new national motto. I suggest pedicabo de quo vadis.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Monstra mihi tuum mammis.

  • WDATPDIM!?||

    Shouldn't that be tuas mammas?

  • Pro Libertate||

    No. Piss off.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Actually, I have no idea. Not a master of Latin, which I mostly learned from Life of Brian. German I know better, thanks to Hogan's Heroes and Sgt. Rock.

  • ||

    Mene mene tekel upharsin.

  • ace_m82||

    That's a good one.

    Is it sad that I didn't have to Google that one?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Semper ubi sub ubi

  • 110 Lean||

    ^^THIS^^

  • Doctor Whom||

    Futue te ipsum; hoc quare.

  • ||

    Much better than my attempt. I wish I had some Latin knowledge. "The people called Romans, they go to the house??"

  • ||

    Fucchus yours us that's whysis.

  • BuSab Agent||

    Uckfu ouyo hatsta hywy.

  • Rich||

    It’s of course possible that Koskinen, who is not a tech staffer, just didn’t understand the specifics of the IRS backup protocols

    It’s of course impossible that Koskinen, who is not a tech staffer, would lie under oath in a congressional investigation rather than say "I don't know."

  • Tonio||

    "I don't know" is an easy, all-purpose way to avoid telling what you know. And it's much harder to disprove an IDK than it is to disprove a positive statement.

  • Rich||

    I don't know about that.

  • Tonio||

    Lulz.

  • Zeb||

    "I don't recall" is even better. It's pretty well impossible to prove the state of a person's recollection at a particular moment.

  • Tonio||

    Also, another key concept is archives. Even if the server backup tapes were destroyed, individual employees may well have archived those records for CYA purposes. But since these employees probably fear for their jobs the fear of NOT producing these records has to be greater than the fear of losing their jobs. So immunity for low-level employees if they testify, prosecution if they don't.

    It's the rat-hole problem. How many little rats do you let escape to catch the big rats?

  • John||

    There was an ongoing IG investigation. When that happens in government there is a preserve order and all of the emails are archived. There is no way these were lost absent deliberate and criminal conduct on the IRS part.

  • Overt||

    Not necessarily. Companies and the government often have data retention requirements that specifically try to destroy evidence before there is a court case.

    In the case of the IRS, it is completely plausible that they intentionally set their data retention short (e.g. 6 months) meaning that their infrastructure has NO email. That means those emails can only be found on the local drives of various people. If that hard drive was really destroyed, the only way they could be created is to KNOW who else was in contact with Lerner and then get their local drives.

    If the Preserve Data order was issued after the 6month retention period, it is very likely that the emails are gone and very likely that the only unlawful destruction came from the "accidental" loss of the lerner drive.

  • John||

    It is possible they did that. But if they did, we would have heard about it long before now as various GAO, IG, Congressional investigations and federal court cases where thwarted.

    The thing to remember is that this isn't the first time someone has asked the IRS for emails. Agencies get sued and investigated all of the time. And no agency, much less as one that is in court or as high profile as the IRS could get away with having a "we delete every email after six months" retention policy. You can't do that. It is illegal and would subject the agency to all sorts of sanctions.

    There is no way that is the policy. They are lying.

  • Raston Bot||

    I'm still leaning toward rank incompetence rather than conspiracy for the crash. But recycling the hard drive during an investigation is pure corruption. Next we'll hear that the servers were all disassembled and sold for scrap to unknown Chinese scrap brokers.

  • Tonio||

    Government policy is to wipe or shred (yes, really) hard drives before releasing them for surplus, excess or scrap.

  • JWatts||

    Yes, but the hard drive crashed "just days after Republicans began investigating the tax agency’s scrutiny of conservative non-profits"

    If you destroy something that has potential to become evidence in an ongoing investigation (and you aren't part of the FYTW party) then your probably going to jail.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And you'll have lots of things construed against you.

  • Brett L||

    Here's the problem with incompetence. Say the hard drive actually did take a shit and die. They HAD backups when it happened. You expect me to believe that a medium-high level government bureaucrat said, "Hey, I don't need any of that email or anything else on the hard drive. Don't restore it to a new hard-drive"?

    That's the rub. Some connected functionary is not gonna reproduce all her spreadsheets and presentations by hand. She's gonna chew IT's ass until they restore everything. And once they do, then it goes on the current backup. So fuck their story about recycling the backups.

  • ||

    Does anyone else feel like we're starting to get to the "are we just laughing at retards" point, and then remember that the retards can assault and kidnap us all at will? That's fun, isn't it?

  • WDATPDIM!?||

    I tend to think of the local lord trampling my grain during a fox hunt and then having me thrashed and tossed onto the manure pile when I go to the manor to request reimbursement.

  • Tonio||

    This, Nicole is why you really are the worst.

  • Raven Nation||

    Is it just me, or has there been a marked rise in Nicole-hate of late?

  • Tonio||

    Not hate. Nikki is one of my faves on here, but I do tease her a bit which she invites by being super obnoxious.

    It's the beloved little sister syndrome - we pick on her mercilessly, but woe be it to any outsider who messes with her.

  • From the Tundra||

    If hate=love, then yes.

  • ||

    Aw you guyyyyyyys

  • Auric Demonocles||

    We've accepted her as one of us.

  • Dweebston||

    I was under the impression that TIWTANFL was more of a Highlander oath than an observation: there can be only [none].

    Hence picking on Nikki.

  • ||

    I think my Leni Riefenstahl thing was the real reason actually.

  • Tonio||

    It was a triumph of the will.

  • John||

    Nikki it is things like this that make you the bestest and me your loyal minion

  • ||

    They think we're all made of cake?

  • ||

    Based off of facebook, reddit, Tony and shrike, I think it's safe to say that they DO think we're all made of cake.

  • Agammamon||

    I've got a picture of a kid with Down's syndrome, holding two pistols pointed at the camera.

    The caption is 'Who's the retard *now*?'

  • WDATPDIM!?||

    Has anybody checked Saul Goodman's safe?

  • Tonio||

    Nice. Gallows humor is all we have left at this point.

  • Dave Krueger||

    This would be a good time to dissolve the IRS and go to the Fair Tax or something similar. A government agency that corrupt shouldn't be allowed to exist and Congress has the power to shutter it.

    Of course, that won't happen because the party in power never sees its own corruption as corruption.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I expect an anonymous leak of the files at some point.

  • Tonio||

    That's intriguing, but the pattern of emails might well provide enough of a clue to the identity of the person doing the release.

    One solution: Put a kickstarter bounty on the files, a sum big enough to equal the pension of whoever has them. Payment only if they are proved authentic.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Tapes disappear, written documents disappear, electronic files do not, especially emails that pass thru multiple servers and are subject to retention policies.

    Some IT person will eventually get their hands on the emails and feed them out. If Snowden can download the entire NSA playbook, then those emails will be found.

  • Rich||

    Put a kickstarter bounty on the files

    Paging Donald Trump ....

  • Tonio||

    Not even that, if every independent US voter contributed one dollar that would be several millions. Enough to retire on comfortably for several people. That's what this really comes down to is income security. Shut up and the government will take care of you; squeal and we'll fire you. We have to make it more worthwhile to disclose the records than to sit on them.

  • Rasilio||

    Given the actions we know this administration has taken getting fired is not exactly on the top of the list of concerns for anyone thinking about whistleblowing on them

  • ||

    That would be nice. I don't think I'll hold my breath for it though.

  • MasterDarque||

    They should just ask the NSA for the emails. But seriously this story is complete bullshit. I am sure they run under some version of RAID and they have good onsite and offsite backups. If they can't provide even a simple email restore then why in the fuck are they allowed to do anything.

  • Tonio||

    RAID is only as good as the current data. If there's lots of data turnover the drives may have been overwritten with new data multiple times to the point where the messages in question are truly unrecoverable.

    It says they recycle (overwrite) the backup tapes every few months. This is plausible from a tech standpoint but see my comment upthread about government obsession with record-retention.

    Having said all that, they should still subpoena Lerner's HDD and give it to one of those data-recovery services such as the FBI uses. It's incredible what they can recover even from wiped drives (depending on how thoroughly the drive was wiped, of course).

  • JWatts||

    "Having said all that, they should still subpoena Lerner's HDD and give it to one of those data-recovery services such as the FBI uses."

    I'm guessing you didn't read the story above. The short version:

    Issa subpoenaed the HD on Tuesday. Yesterday the IRS said that they've thrown it away.

  • Tonio||

    No, I didn't RTFA. My bad.

    Remember the Balko (?) article a few weeks back when some state police agency was stonewalling FOIA requests because the reporter was requesting records on some local/state taskforce and the SP was claiming that no such taskforce existed because he didn't get the name exactly right, and they refused to disclose what taskforces existed? This is the same thing.

    The answer to this is subpoenas, subpoenas, and more subpoenas. Eventually something will slip.

  • WDATPDIM!?||

    There's gotta be some faceless gubmint IT worker out there who knows right from wrong and can lay his/her hands on the goods.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Climategate emails, anyone?

  • Mr. Soul||

    along the lines of "the officer got home safely", all IRS Backup engineers were paid handsomely during this period.

  • Doctor Whom||

    But ... but ... World Cup! Rick Perry! Some celebrity! [/my obot Facebook friends]

  • JW||

    You need to start blocking the more mongoloid lefty sites that they share from. It makes FB tolerable.

  • Dave Krueger||

    Destroying the hard drives containing all the email of six people would almost certainly have to involve a number of people who would have to know by now that it was intended to destroy evidence of crime. People willing to do that would have to be rewarded in some way, making them complicit and willing to participate in the coverup. Too bad the FBI, who could probably uncover the payoffs, conveniently works for the same boss likely responsible for this fiasco. And the next boss will continue the coverup because that's what Presidents do for each other.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    It would probably also involve a bunch of people who were given a bunch of hard drives to shred, as per policy, w/o knowing Lerner's was among them. You can keep quite a few flunkies in the dark during the coverup.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Any agency with a proper rolling refresh to minimize the budgetary instability of doing everything at once (ie, a proper schedule) will have a constant supply of hard drives to be shredded. Someone showing up and going "I have some more drives to shred, what pile do they go in" would not stand out.

  • Tonio||

    The reward is being allowed to keep their jobs. Remember, most of these people don't have any skills marketable outside of government. So only if the penalty of not disclosing is greater than the penalty for disclosing will we get anywhere.

    Immunity for low-level people provided they cough up records, prosecutions for the top. Also, privately-financed bounties equal to pension earnings for producing the files.

  • Sevo||

    ..."Were There Server Backups?"

    Doesn't matter; those messages are in several locations. If (that's IF) the FBI wants to find them they are available.
    And regardless, someone's ass should be in the slammer for destroying evidence.

  • Homple||

    Be assured the Department of Holder is already on it.

  • sesuncedu||

    The following regulations were applicable:

    http://dor.mo.gov/pdf/erecords.pdf (2006 NARA rules - rules were changed in 2013).
    http://www.archives.gov/record.....grs23.html (General Record Schedule)

  • Brandon||

    So...obstruction of justice? Evidence tampering? When can we expect the DOJ to file charges against these egregious offenders?

  • ||

    About the twelfth of never.

    Also, fake scandal.

  • Brett L||

    Man, its like they have something to hide.

  • John||

    As Tonio and others point out, if these emails are gone, someone committed a crime. They might get away with claiming they are gone but I think they are going to have to offer someone up to cry over this. That is a problem people generally won't go to jail to protect their bosses and will talk. If they offer someone up, that person likely rolls and some very important people are in trouble. If they don't, the dems in Congress get stuck being the party of corruption.

  • sarcasmic||

    Nothing is going to happen. It's just a fake scandal ginned up by racist teabaggers to make the president look bad.

  • JWatts||

    And Bush lost torture emails! I think that's the latest Tu Quoque fallacy making the rounds.

  • sarcasmic||

    Bush did it first? Oh, well then. I guess it's OK.

  • John||

    I will take that deal. Everyone has to admit that Bush personally ordered detainees be tortured and in return everyone also has to admit Obama personally ordered the IRS to go after his political enemies.

    That sounds fair to me. If losing emails means you are guilty, then fine, so be it.

  • waffles||

    You are so optimistic.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    How many times are you going to get kicked in the nuts and still not put a cup on?
    You're like Charlie Brown and the Feds are Lucy.

  • John||

    The past is a great indicator of the future right up until it is not. Eventually all shoes drop. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself and think that there is no end and nothing will ever change. But that is just not true. Eventually everything changes. And no one, not even the black Jesus gets away with everything forever.

  • Rasilio||

    I thought we weren't allowed to talk about Lucy?

  • JW||

    I'm sure the responsible parties will be brought to justice for their obviously criminal acts to cover up their other criminal acts.

    I crack myself up, sometimes.

  • GILMORE||

    Listening to this shit is like hearing Progs trying to explain various aspects of Investment Banking. Or how semi-automatic weapons work.

  • waffles||

    semi-automatic weapons work

    that's simple. they kill children as fast as you can pull the trigger.

  • ||

    needs more "spraying bullets"

  • Paul.||

    Hard Drive Containing Ex-IRS Official Lois Lerner’s Emails Reportedly Destroyed. Were There Server Backups?

    Sit down, kiddies, we're going to have an I.T. lesson.

    I don't no much about no IRS IT systems specifically, but I run a medium sized enterprise and so I'ma gonna project a little bit.

    In these here modern times, there is no "hard drive" with Lois Lerner's emails on them. There is subscribed space on a SAN which contain the emails (and very likely other application data) and that SAN may contain dozens if not hundreds of hard drives with data striped across them.

    Realistically, you're not going to recover any of ms lerner's emails from a discreet, individual hard drive. However, that san will... I say again, WILL have regular backups running, and it's entirely possible those backups are occurring in real time.

    Now, I know that our government officials, being held to higher standards, probably don't have to adhere to the same archival requirements that those of us toiling around in the private sector must.

    But from a standpoint of cover-your-ass, I know they do. They do.

  • Paul.||

    Addendum:

    The only way there was a discreet harddrive containing Lois Lerner's emails is if Ms. Lerner was one of those odious people (whom I quietly judge) that created an external PST file on her local hard drive because labors under the misapprehension that her email is a document management system. Then this is a perfect opportunity to allow her IT people to have ten minutes with her in a back alley and some baseball bats yelling "I fucking told you so, bitch!"

    Now, I'm sure that in ms lerner's head, she's saying to herself, "Jackpot!"

  • John||

    Even if she did, the government IT system would have also archived them as well.

    What they are saying cannot be true. It might be true that they have managed to destroy these emails. I don't have enough IT knowledge to say if doing so is possible. But if they did, they did not due so as a matter of course or consistent with any sort of agency or government policy. If they did, they did it maliciously and for the purpose of destroying incriminating evidence.

  • Paul.||

    Even if she did, the government IT system would have also archived them as well.

    Possibly. Depending on how far back their retention policy goes. We have users (whom I quietly judge) here who have emails from 8 years ago on their local hard drive in a PST file which has more than likely fallen off any backups we do. We're a non-profit so we're not subject to Sarb-Ox.

    What they are saying cannot be true.

    More than likely, way more than likely, they are lying through their teeth, and the harder they lie, the deeper the conspiracy goes because it's going to start requiring many people from many different points to maintain the lie.

    I don't have enough IT knowledge to say if doing so is possible.

    It is, but only in limited circumstances which are highly unlikely. If I were brought in as a consultant, I would let them tell me why the emails were not recoverable and let them paint themselves into a logical corner. I would not feed them any scenarios that would allow them to claim otherwise.

    "Show me how Ms. Lerner's email was configured. Now show me how your exchange cluster is configured. Now show me your SAN. Now show me your back up systems and retention policy. And I want several members of your IT team with me in the room, and there will not be any lawyers or staff from Ms. Lerner's office in the room."

  • John||

    Your last paragraph is the rub here. Congress is going to subpeana the IRS IT people to explain how this happened. Issa and company will no doubt talk to IT people that will feed them those very questions and a few more.

    How do the IT people answer those questions? They could lie sure. But that is lying to congress and anything they say can be easily checked and verified. Maybe the IT people will be committed enough to just lie anyway figuring Holder will never do anything to them. But damn, that is a pretty big bet. If Holder needs a scapegoat, why wouldn't he go after some IT guy?

    Ultimately someone is going to have to either lie under oath or tell the truth and make it apparent how criminal this was. I have no doubt the political hacks will lie. They have no other choice since they were probably the ones who did it. But will the IT people lie?

  • ||

    Will the next chapter in this story involve an IT schlub taking the 5th?

  • Overt||

    This is not true. Having worked on specidically this type of issue, here is what happens:

    The exchange server has limited storage per account. Users are expected to clear out their Exchange online account regularly. They may do one of two things: delete the emails (at which point they are gone) or move them to local storage, in which case they are on the local drive only, unless that drive runs some sort of connected backup solution.

    Yes, those Exchange file-stores are backed up. However IT organizations setup data retention policies specifically designed to balance the need for business (or corporate) continuity. Unless they are constrained by law (I don't know if the IRS is or what those constraints would be), generally they keep data just long enough to keep the org running if there were a catastrophic data loss. Not only is indefinite retention of data expensive, but organizations realize the liability risk of keeping records around indefinitely for whenever the next court order comes along.

    So now the only place these emails exist are on Lerner's local drive and on the local drive of any conversants. Even if that HD were being backed up, those backups would be under the same constraints, where anything of sufficient age could legitimately no longer be around.

  • Overt||

    ALL THAT SAID, there is a question of whether or not- when this began- there was an order issued to preserve records. Many consider this an obvious yes, but there is lots of grey area as to when you are legally obligated to start preserving records. Further, a sufficiently motivated compliance officer trying to walk a tight line can look at the Preserve Order and be very selective about what should be preserved. As the investigator makes discoveries, they must then issue new preserve orders to cover anything that may be missed. It becomes an insidious game of delay and response- where the compliance offer is hoping to avoid the preserve order long enough that the records can be destroyed by the standard processes.

  • John||

    What you say is true. The problem is you can do that sort of thing if you are a lower level drone. Lerner was not a lower level drone. She was the head of the department under investigation. Her emails would have been the first things subject to the order.

    Is it possible that the IG just never preserved them and let her destroy the records? Sure. But if that is the IRS' story, they are admitting that their own IG and Lerner committed criminal obstruction.

    The other problem is that the head of the IRS assured Congress that they had her emails as late as earlier this year. If it is true that the IG just never bothered to make Lerner comply with the preserve order, why did the head of the agency tell Congress otherwise? There was an IG report that dropped in 2013. Lehner admitting they went after the Tea Party and blaming it on the Cincinatti office is what started this thing. I don't see how they could have ignored the preserve order and lost Leherner's email in 2011 and then the IG nor anyone else ever notice it and the head of the Agency told Congress they had them. That doesn't make any sense.

  • Overt||

    Alternatively, the HD was destroyed prior to the order going out. That is, "Oh shit, the GOP is spinning up an inquiry. We better act fast!"

    As for them saying they had emails, sure they may have. But that doesn't mean they had email going back a year or more. Remember this shit was going down years ago.

    I'm just trying to temper the suggestions people are making that there was some mass effort to purge email. I think that is unlikely. I do think it is likely that the hard drive was destroyed under the knowledge that it might be asked for. Whether it was done before or after the hold order is still unclear.

  • Paul.||

    The exchange server has limited storage per account.

    No, exchange can have limited storage per account, as set by policy by the exchange administrator. Guess who in our administration gets set to "unlimited". Important People(tm). Wonder where Lerner fits on that scale.

    Users are expected to clear out their Exchange online account regularly.

    Yes, Users are expected to clear out their Exchange account regularly. Guess who doesn't have to? That's right, Important People(tm). Wonder where Lerner fits on that scale?

    They may do one of two things: delete the emails (at which point they are gone) or move them to local storage, in which case they are on the local drive only,

    No, there are may archival solutions for this. If you have not deployed any server side archival storage, then they may move them to local storage-- one way is to create, as I stated above, local PST files.

    Our AD policy DOESN'T ALLOW pst files. It used to, but it doesn't allow new people to create PST files. Except people who got grandfathered in. Guess to got grandfathered in? Important people(tm).

    However IT organizations setup data retention policies specifically designed to balance the need for business (or corporate) continuity.

    Except where overridden by regulatory strictures. You WILL retain data for X years because of law x.

  • Paul.||

    as I stated, if Lois Lerner came under the Important People(tm) moniker and did exactly what our IT structure has allowed in very limited circumstances, then and only then would there be a discreet 'hard drive' with those emails on it.

  • Paul.||

    And further, that still makes assumptions. I can (and have) set, by request, Important People(tm) to have unlimited exchange storage. I have a user, right now, right in front of me that has emails from 2002 in their inbox. Not in a PST file, not in any external archive solution, but right there, in the exchange database.

    Those emails are somewhere and frankly, if they're not, Lerner should be fired, and the CIO that demanded the IT exchange administrator allow that situation to arise should also be fired.

    Every CIO that ever says the words..."Just make them happy..." should be fired.

    Fired.

    Fired fired fired.

  • Paul.||

    Fired.

  • Paul.||

    And then fired again.

  • Overt||

    Paul, I understand what you are saying, but again, I have done this in a company that has been subject of lawsuits. When those lawsuits originate, the Hold Order goes out and any available data that had not been lost due to normal data retention policies then needs to be saved.

    This company specifically DOES NOT give unlimited email storage to VIP's for the EXPRESS REASON that they do not want years of email that might include sensitive information being subject to a massive data inquiry. They do not want years of email being subject to hold orders.

    As I said, there are regulatory reasons to hold data, but they are generally along the lines of 18 months for SEC-regulated companies, and but I don't know for Government.

    Again, my point is that you don't need a massive conspiracy to delete people's email after the fact. If their CIO is worth his salt, he is preemptively deleting emails precisely to avoid discovery. And he is doing it as soon as he is allowed.

  • John||

    They cover their ass. The thing is that the government gets sued all of the time. And as a part of those suits, the government has to produce voluminous amounts of emails and other such documents. The federal judges who preside over those cases don't give a fuck about "we accidentally deleted that". If the government wasn't meticulous about archiving things, it would be subject to summary judgement as a sanction for violating discovery orders all of the time. It is not. Also, the government is subject to congressional inquiries and IG investigations daily. Those things also require producing emails and such. There are entire staffs of people in every agency who do nothing but police up various records and then redact them for production to Congress or the GAO.

    I am not familiar with the IRS information practices. I am however familiar enough with government in general to know that what they are saying is complete horseshit. If the IRS actual policies and practices are what they claim them to be, we would have heard about it a long time ago as the GAO, Congress, and various federal judges lined up to bitch slap them.

  • Paul.||

    You almost need no IT experience to know that what they're saying is total horseshit. Do you think if I have an email conversation with an agent who's auditing me, that they wouldn't be able to recover that conversation if there were a legal need to do so?

    If these emails from Lerner were ten years old, I might buy that it fell outside their retention policy. But we're not talking about emails that were ten years old.

  • John||

    The statute of limitations on tax cases is ten years. The IRS is saying that if they bring a criminal case against me for my 2009 taxes, they would have no way of checking to see if I made any affirmative representations or admissions via email to the IRS agent who audited me. That is a bit dubious. Moreover, they are saying that if the GAO investigated how the IRS was handling some particular duty of theirs, they would have no emails over six months old to show them. Bullshit.

  • Pulseguy||

    Lerner won't cooperate with investigators. I like that. How does that work? I'd like to know in case I ever am in such a situation. I'll just tell them I won't cooperate.

  • LLizard||

    It helps to know that there's a pardon for you, as long as you remain a good soldier and keep your mouth shut.

  • ||

    This is one time I wouldn't mind seeing a Congressional warrant for midnight no-knock raid by a SWAT team, initiated with a few flash-bangs...

  • Paul.||

    To the face.

  • ||

    What would happen to a private citizen who, upon receiving a subpoena, made all of those same excuses as to why they couldn't comply with it?

    Yeah, exactly. That private citizen would be the guest of the federal government while they tore apart his entire life looking for the required information.

    People have been jailed for contempt of Congress before, perhaps it's time some IRS officials got to choose between compliance and a cell?

  • LLizard||

    Maybe it would be hard for investigators to search for email from Lerner in the recipients email stores, because they weren't from "Lois Lerner" or her official account. Remember Lisa "Richard Windsor" Jackson, over at the EPA?

  • LLizard||

    Waiting for Snowden to say, "Excuse me,... is THIS what you guys are looking for?"

  • geo||

    The detail left out about the seven "crashed" hard drives is just how large the other vehicle involved in the crash was. Was it a large black Secret Service Chevy Suburban, or maybe an armored troop carrier like the Stryker APC, and was that crash before or after being fired on with 14.5-mm armor-piercing rounds and doused with napalm?

  • halmonkey||

    Ooops, my hard drive crashed, so all of my reason.com comments are lost. Sorry about that, mmkay?

  • Response||

    In Mexico, you have to be corrupt (demand bribes) to work for the government because those above you are corrupt (demand bribes from their employees). If a Mexican wants honorable employment, they simply do not work for the government.

    With this specific scandal, the results will be that many honorable people will avoid working for the IRS. The void will be filled by those who work well in corruption.

  • lap83||

    I think that has begun to happen. A church friend of my parents, who worked in a management role at the local IRS, was dealing with moral/ethical dilemmas at his job a couple of years ago (could be related to the targeting thing, I wouldn't be surprised..but he was vague about it).

  • mplspolitics||

    Well I guess it's back to the echo chamber for me, as Alternet has blocked both my phone and my IP address and Disqus doesn't work with TOR. It's amazing how hateful you can be there so long as you have the approved opinions, but you stand up to the lies, misrepresentations, and derp and you are booted. I created 14 accounts over the last 14 days and kept slinging and alas, I am blocked. SO....Hi guys. What I miss?

  • mplspolitics||

    Whoops, 14 accounts over the last 3 days. Been on a bender and am a little fuzzy today.

  • Bob Armstrong||

    I am under the impression that Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank require private companies to archive all emails and other communications up the wazoo .

    Surely the all federal agencies must abide by at least as high standards , Right ?

  • Paul.||

    2. Section 802(a)(1)

    This section outlines the time period that documents need to be retained under Sarbanes Oxley. The retention period is set at 5 years from the end of the fiscal period. As email can falls within the acts definition of important documents, your email retention strategy should allow for email records to be held for 5 years.

    However, government is a force for good. So it doesn't apply to them.

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    Rule #1 The IRS standard for you peon citizens: Guilty until proven innocent.

    Rule #2 The IRS standard for you peon citizens: Hold all records for 7 years.

    If you don't adhere to rule #2, see rule #1.

    Equal Standards, equal Justice.

  • anthonyohare2014||

    Even such big companies keep on coming up with these type if issue for External Hard Drive Recovery, which can actually sound so dam hilarious, i tell you.

    http://www.birmingham-data-recovery.co.uk/

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