The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) "did not follow the law" when it failed to report the loss of emails belonging to Lois Lerner, the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit, and the recycling of her hard drive, rendering recovery impossible. That's according to David Ferriero (pictured), the Archivist of the United States, during questioning by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The loss of Lerner's potentially sensitive emails is just the latest development in the evolving story that has grown from revelations of almost certainly politically motivated scrutiny of small-government and Tea Party groups by the tax agency.
The entire exchange is below:
Walberg: Thank you Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ferriero, just to review a bit in your testimony, you state that when agencies become aware of unauthorized destruction of federal records that they are required to report the incidents to the Archives. At any time in 2011, through last Monday, did the IRS report any loss of records related to Lois Lerner?
Walberg: Is it fair to say that the IRS broke the Federal Records Act?
Ferriero: They are required, any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem that could be destruction or disposal, unauthorized disposal.
Walberg: But they didn't do that?
Ferriero: That's right.
Walberg: Did they break the law?
Ferrerio: I'm not a lawyer.
Walberg: But you administer the Federal Records Act.
Ferriero: I do.
Walberg: If they didn't follow it, can we safely assume they broke the law?
Ferriero: They did not follow the law.
According to Fox News polling, 76 percent of Americans think the destruction of the emails was deliberate, while just 12 percent are convinced by the dog-ate-my-homework claim that it was an accident.
Deliberate or not, the IRS, which is so zealous in enforcing the tax code, apparently managed to break the law regarding retention of federal records.