Lois Lerner

Lois Lerner Warned IRS Employees to "be cautious about what we say in emails"


Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official who cannot provide email records to congressional investigators because of a computer crash shortly after a congressional committee began its probe, warned other IRS employees to be "cautious about what we say in emails" that could be released to Congress.


That's according to an email exchange between Lerner, the former IRS director of tax exempt organizations, and another IRS employee. The exchange, which occurred in April, 2013, a little less than two years after her own hard drive crashed, was made public by the House Oversight Committee as part of its ongoing investigation into conservative non-profit organizations.

The emails show that Lerner emailed a colleague to ask about the storage and retention of OCS conversations—messages sent using Microsoft's Office Communications Server. In the exchange, Lerner expresses concern about possible congressional requests for IRS communications.

"I had a question today about OCS," Lerner wrote. "I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had 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?"

Hooke writes back that OCS messages are not "set to automatically save as the standard," but that the functionality to do so also exists. "My general recommendation is to treat the conversation as if it could/is being saved somewhere," Hooke writes.

"Perfect," Lerner writes in response.

It's hard to look at Lerner's query and not wonder why, exactly, she's so concerned about what Congress might find in IRS emails or other types of electronic communications. She seems to be expressing a fairly clear desire to shield certain types of agency communications from possible congressional scrutiny, and she indicates that she has advised agency employees to take steps to ensure that what Congress sees is limited.

It's possible, of course, that this is merely a product of general managerial caution. But in the context of Lerner's own conveniently timed tech troubles—her hard drive containing her emails crashed just 10 days after the House Ways and Means Committee sent its first letter asking about IRS treatment of non-profits—it's bound to raise some eyebrows. (Further, as The Wall Street Journal notes, the exchange happened just days after the IRS Inspector General delivered a report concluding that the IRS had targeted conservative groups, but before that report was made public.)

If Lerner was warning other agency employees to be careful about what they say in emails that could be made available to Congress, then it seems reasonable to suspect that IRS employees were in the habit of having discussions that they would not want Congress to know about. 

See the full email exchange, as released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, after the jump.

Lerner Email Use 2 by PeterSuderman

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  1. Most. Transparent. Ever.

      1. How many decades had Lerner worked at the IRS?

        1. You mean how many other groups did she persecute in violation of the 1st Amendment? I’d like to know, too.

          1. Is it that the sane libertarians think you Limbaugh farts aren’t worth engaging with, or do they reserve all their ire for liberals because we’re smart enough to be a threat?

            1. “liberals because we’re smart enough to be a threat?”

              Citation needed.

            2. Tony, Shrike (Palin’s Buttplug) calls himself a libertarian.

              Also name one libertarian organization who thinks this is a fake scandal.

        2. “…but fuck just one sheep…”

          1. :slow clap:

          2. I always heard this as a norwegian joke.

            Ole was despondent and his buddy Lars was trying to cheer him up.

            “Why are you so sad Ole”

            “Well, I have made many scientific discoveries, but does anyone say, there goes Ole the great scientist? No.

            I am a fantastic engineer, but does anyone say there goes Ole the great builder? No.

            But suck one cock….”

          1. It’s remarkable, in a way. He reminds me often of a religious fundamentalist how he will twist any fact, misconstrue any circumstance, ignore the painfully obvious in pursuit of the purity of his burning BOOOSH.

            1. I am pretty sure his argument is that if she is a long time career bureaucrat she is less likely the political pawn of a particular administration.

              1. Bo I doubt you are that naive and I am certainly not.

              2. Are you pretty sure his argument is full of shit?

              3. Are you aware of her malicious prosecution of conservative candidates at the FEC in the 90s?

              4. Bo is PB is Tulpa?

        3. If she worked there for decades and just all of a sudden started targeting right wing groups seeking non-profit status in 2010, what does that tell you?

          1. Good point. That would mean the WH most likely ordered the actions.

    1. transparent as in we can see right through their lies

    2. Lerner was an employee during the Bush administration, so this is a bipartisan scandal at worst, but more likely the fault of George W. Bush.

      1. “Bipartisan” in the sense that a Republican made the mistake of hiring a Democratic partisan.

        1. More like Bush and the assholes in Congress a decade ago were too wimpy to massively reform the tax code defund the IRS.

        2. It’s not like we have a spoils system where the new pres can sweep away all the old political hacks in the bureaucracy.

      2. You mean, George W. BOOOOOOSH.

  2. I hate this administration as much as anybody, but as a practicing lawyer who occasionally deals with document requests resulting in production of thousands of e-mails, I can’t really fault anyone for advising anyone to be careful about what gets put in an email. I know all too well how easy it is for opposing counsel to seize on something that was written in all innocence, but worded in such a way that, read out of context, it looks like a smoking gun.

    1. You’re too kind.

    2. Or for something that was written angrily or facetiously to be blown out of proportion, or alleged to speak for a whole office or institution rather than a lone jerk. I’m less troubled that people were conscious of the persistence of e-mails as a record than I am that Lerner expressed consciousness of this issue only to subsequently have her e-mails be “lost”.

      1. Or to accidently record how the IRS is being used for purposes of political persecution. That’d be really awkward.

    3. Having cautioned my own employees about what they say in an email, I get this objection. Given what we know about Lerner, destroyed emails, IRS abuse in general, and cover ups, you can’t fault a guy for being a little suspicious.

      1. also this

        I’ve been party to many a deposition and data dump for discovery. It ain’t fun.

        And one of the first things were told is “DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING THAT MIGHT BE RELEVANT TO ONGOING LEGAL CASES.”

        So, yeah – be careful what you say – BUT THEN DON’T MYSTERIOUSLY LOSE IT AT THE WORST POSSIBLE MOMENT.

        The Obama Admin is like Scoobie Doo come to life. “…and we’d have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling Rethuglihadist teafucking ratbagger racists.”

    4. I’m with Seamus. In isolation, that’s always good advice.

      In certain contexts, including an inquiry about whether email can be discovered and disclosed, it takes on a certain, more sinister, mien.

    5. If they’ve done nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about.

      Isn’t that right?

      1. Well if I have nothing to hide then I shouldn’t mind the NSA reading all my emails.

        So, you’re right.


    1. While it’s a little fantastical that just the right emails happened to disappear, I wouldn’t call her a witch. Just a crook.

    2. I’m sure you said the same thing about Sarah Palin–except you were serious.

      Also, itt’s kinda funny how Sarah Palin turned over all her emails–even those in non-gov accounts–to a slavering mainstream media who was ready to pick through them weeks in advance of their release and NOTHING was found, yet when the same is asked of a fedgov employee, they somehow can’t seem to figure out how to get to the emails.

      Yup, ’tis to laugh.

      1. “and NOTHING was found”

        Are you talking about in this investigation?



      The Nixon administration called the investigation of the white house in regards to using the IRS to attack political opponents a “witch hunt”.

      http://books.google.com/books?…..&q=richard nixon witch hunt&f=false

      Fascinating that you use the same exact language.

  4. Yawn for me on this one. Especially when your work will be subject to scrutiny by lawyers or govt officials, it doesn’t hurt to remind your staff that these might be read as evidence in an investigation as things can be misinterpreted out of context.

  5. Okay, Lerner warns IRS employees to be cautious about what they say in an email…in an email.


    2. She is devious as hell. No one said she was smart.

  6. It’d be great if the Shrieking were reduced to maybe – 8% – of the noise here. kthxbai

  7. Does it matter how long the bitch was with the IRS? No, it does not. Anyone got an intelligent question to ask? Mister Eight Percent is shooting blanks, as usual.

  8. Hooke writes back that OCS messages are not “set to automatically save as the standard,”

    W. T. F.

    Given the legal requirements that they save all their email, this isn’t incompetent, its knowing and willful violation of the law.

    Oh, and can we stop pretending that Lois’s hard drive crashed? I think we all know it did no such thing, but was wiped and destroyed. Unless they show me the help desk tickets and get sworn testimony from an IT monkey that, yep, it crashed all on its own, I don’t believe it did.

    1. Don’t be so cynical. It’s normal for a hard drive to crash after being pummelled repeatedly with a hammer.

      1. While listening to “Damn it feels good to be a gangsta”?

    2. I love how the civil servants’ excuse is, essentially, “we’re not evil, we’re just so incompetent that we wouldn’t last 30 seconds in the private sector.”

      The sad thing is that it works; the system is set up to excuse dereliction of duty.

      1. As I have opportunity to say far too often:

        Bureaucracies are giant machines for diffusing responsibility.

      2. “we’re not evil, we’re just so incompetent

        I have seen this excuse increasingly used over and over again for at least the last 6 years at basically every level of government. Just a read through of Reason articles about government errors, scandals, malfeasance, etc. will provide more variants of it than a person could ever want to read. It is the go to for governmental excuse makers everywhere and I just do not understand how it has not become a major issue in it’s own right.

        Who the fuck am I kidding.

        I know exactly why it isn’t.

        1. “Not evil, but incompetent” was the previous leftist regime (Clinton). In fact, incompetent enough to actually have things improve a bit under his administration. We’re not so lucky this time, this bunch is as evil as Cheney and Bush.

          1. Dirtier than Nixon,
            more incompetent than Carter.

    3. Look, it’s a lesson Lernerd

    4. I don’t think “OCS conversations” means emails, I think it means some sort of instant messaging service (similar to skype). Hence, the inquiry is about whether those types of messages are subject to the same policies as emails.

  9. Once one embarks on a scheme of deception, consistency is the name of the game.

  10. I don’t see why anyone is so surprised by any of this. Public choice theory is self-evident, you know. Bureaucrats want to protect their power and therefore they see themselves as allies of the Leviathan. Duh.

    As I keep saying to anyone who can hear, the scandal isn’t that a bunch of bureaucrats misued their enormous power. The scandal is that a country that pays so much lip service to “freedom” and “liberty” allows itself to have a system that gives such power to bureaucrats in the first place.

    Income tax is evil. The IRS acting evil is just a natural result of that.

  11. I guess “perfect” was in response to the sense it made.

  12. the House Oversight Committee as part of its ongoing investigation into conservative non-profit organizations.

    Perhaps this beer has hit me harder than I expected, but I’m pretty sure Congress wasn’t investigating the victims of the scandal.

  13. It’s hard to look at Lerner’s query and not wonder why, exactly, she’s so concerned about what Congress might find

    Really man ….. you are being way too nice here. No “wondering” is reqiured at all. It’s plain as fuckin day.

  14. The exchange, which occurred in April, 2013, a little less than two years after her own hard drive crashed, was made public by the House Oversight Committee as part of its ongoing investigation into conservative non-profit organizations.

    That’s it. Just keep beating that drum. Juust keep beating it.

  15. Lois Lerner Warned IRS Employees to “be cautious about what we say in emails”

    I don’t know man. This is suspicious because of her *other* actions. Without that this is simply good advice for any organization that may face releasing operational data to a hostile examiner.

    To slap her down for this is like when I got arrested (by base police) for telling my troops that its in their best interests to not make a statement to the police without consulting with a lawyer beforehand.

  16. well, since she won’t testify, we can only assume she’s guilty as fuck. Put the cuntstapo in jail.

  17. lol, imagine that. Wow, its truly all about WHO you know.


  18. If I were the subject of a witch hunt I’d be cautious in my work emails too.

    1. witch hunt

      I think Nixon in regards to investigations about his use of the IRS said the same thing.

  19. Why be careful when you have soulless dick and clit-lickers that happily throw your hard drives into metal-teethed monsters?

  20. Not doing anything wrong then nothing to hide!

  21. Its one thing for a private citizen to want to limit the exposure of their communications.

    I don’t think that rule should apply to tax authorities or the police.

    We already had the Richard Windsor affair. Do we want more of that? No.

  22. “warned other IRS employees to be “cautious about what we say in emails” that could be released to Congress”
    OK….how stupid do you have to be to need this kind of warning? I wasn’t even in Kindergarten when I figured out that it was better not to let people in authority know what I was really thinking.

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