Lois Lerner

The IRS Won't Say Why It Wiped Lois Lerner's Blackberry After Congress Began Questioning Her

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The Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) excuse for why it can't provide all of ex-official Lois Lerner's emails to congressional investigators has never quite made sense. The tax agency says Lerner's hard drive crashed, and as a result many emails to outside organizations—like, for example, the White House—went missing.

But why weren't these emails backed up centrally? And wouldn't at least some of them have been accessible on Lerner's other devices, like her Blackberry?

It seems there may have been some sort of backup after all. According to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, IRS representatives told the non-profit watchdog organization that agency communications are in fact backed up by the federal for emergency purposes, in case of a major catastrophe, but recovering from that system would be too difficult. There's no official statement from the IRS to this effect, and it's not clear whether the IRS directly confirmed that Lerner's emails, specifically, were retrievable.

But Fitton's story suggests what has seemed likely all along, despite IRS denials to the contrary: that there was some sort of backup system in place. If so, then it seems likely that emails sent and received by a senior IRS official—Lerner was the head of the agency's tax exempt division—would have been captured by the system. That would mean that while they might be difficult to dig up, recovery would not be impossible.

And then there's the matter of Lerner's Blackberry, which presumably would have had some emails stored on it.

While overseeing a case against the IRS by Judicial Watch, a District Court Judge told the agency to provide details on its recovery efforts following Lerner's hard drive crash. Here's what happened next, according to The Washington Post:  

In response to the judge's order, a top IRS official said in a signed declaration that the agency has no record of attempting to recover data from the mobile device.

IRS attorney Thomas J. Kane said in a separate declaration that the agency "removed or wiped clean" information from the Blackberry in June 2012, shortly after congressional staffers questioned Lerner about the targeting allegations and in the same month that the IRS inspector general began examining the issue.

Kane offered no explanation for why the IRS "removed or wiped clean" the data, and the IRS did not respond to the same question when asked by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

There may be a reasonable explanation for all this. But if there is, the IRS has yet to provide it, and in fact has refused when asked to do so. Combined with all the other suspicious and convenient omissions, lapses, and losses related to this case, it does make one wonder if perhaps there isn't a reasonable explanation to be offered. 

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  1. Not that it matters. But destroying that blackberry after they knew it was the subject of a Congressional inquiry is a crime. But hey it is a fake scandal. Shreek told me so.

    1. Rules aren’t for the rulers, they are for the ruled.

    2. What blows my mind is that private corporations have document retention and litigation hold policies in place that freeze any destruction at the sniff of litigation. Why in the hell is the standard for gubmint so different?

      1. It isn’t different. The government has very good document retention and archiving policies. Retaining information and archives is one of the few things the government does well. You have to remember the government is sued all of the time. If it didn’t do a good job of keeping its records, it would be getting hammered in court by angry judges all of the time.

        This is not a case of “these rules just don’t apply to the government”. These rules do apply and the government follows them except in this case. This is a case of FYTIW.

      2. It isn’t different. The government has very good document retention and archiving policies. Retaining information and archives is one of the few things the government does well. You have to remember the government is sued all of the time. If it didn’t do a good job of keeping its records, it would be getting hammered in court by angry judges all of the time.

        This is not a case of “these rules just don’t apply to the government”. These rules do apply and the government follows them except in this case. This is a case of FYTIW.

    3. Okay, then, where are the fucking prosecutions? Because the destruction of evidence during an investigation is a crime.

      Cover-up is always the thing that gets these people in trouble. Even if everything is happening in super-slo-mo now, it surely won’t when the GOP is controlling both houses. Even if they give His Obamaness a pass, they won’t feel so constrained to leave his underlings alone.

      The one nice thing about this is that if we get enough reform-minded people in Congress, this could be used to force through serious tax reform/simplification, too.

  2. The IRS Won’t Say Why It Wiped Lois Lerner’s Blackberry After Congress Began Questioning Her

    Because fuck you, that’s why.

    There, IRS, it wasn’t so hard now, was it?

  3. There may be a reasonable explanation for all this.

    Suuuuuurrrrrreeeee

    1. The only one would have been “we copied everything from it and it is on this drive which I am handing you right now.

  4. “There may be a reasonable explanation for all this.”

    Like what?

    1. The explanation, which is quite reasonable, is that “If you guys saw what was on that Blackberry, we would be in big trouble. So we destroyed, because who wants to be in big trouble.”

      See? Eminently reasonable.

    2. They were doing some illegal shit and didn’t want to get caught.

      1. Good handle, that.

        1. Good handle, that.

          That’s what she said.

  5. An unaccountable agency acting outside the law? This was completely unforeseeable.

  6. Stop subpoenaing career politicians, and start subpoenaing the IT guys if you want to know who ordered what erased.

      1. Seconded.

    1. Not that easy. The Feds get to chose who they send out to respond to a subpoena. You can’t subpoena “IT guy”.

      1. Really? I can’t subpoena “the IT guy who actually wiped the Blackberry”?

        Or, if I do, they’ll just send some random guy who has no clue what is going on, and that is legally sufficient?

        1. Maybe they don’t know or can’t figure out what guy actually wiped it? You can play endless games like this. “Well we can’t figure out who actually did this but here is a political hack who can testify to the fact that it is gone.”

          Yes, if there is a specific person who has specific information relevant to the litigation, the plaintiffs can ask for that guy. But good luck figuring out who that person is.

          1. Maybe they don’t know or can’t figure out what guy actually wiped it?

            Its possible, but out here in private industry world, its highly unlikely that there would be no record of someone who decommed a piece of IT equipment.

            Our shit is all inventoried, and there’s a paper trail for putting it into and out of service.

      2. I’ve been subpoenaed. It had my name on it. If a state or local government can do it, why can’t Congress subpoena someone by name?

        1. Because they are a sovereign and separation of powers and all of that. They can do it, but the executive can come back and say “this person is unavailable” or “it is not in the best interests of the government to produce this person”.

          It pays to be king.

          1. It pays in blatant lies and human lives.

  7. Look, this shows the IRS needs needs a bigger budget and more staff. Oh and a MRAP or three.

  8. There may be a reasonable explanation for all this.

    There is…but admitting it would send them to prison.

    1. I think I know what it is!

      /to be read in voice of john lovitz president of liars anonymous
      There were nude selfies of Lerner on them! In fact, sexts she sent as a teenager! If they hadn’t wiped the blackberry, they would have violated federal child-porn laws!

      1. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      2. Didn’t they ALREADY violate child porn laws, then?

        Arrest the slut!

  9. There may be a reasonable explanation for all this.

    So there is a reasonable explanation for this and the IRS hasn’t provided it and thus allowed their critics to assume the worst, why?

    No Peter, there is no reasonable explanation for this. If there was, the IRS would have provided it. The lack of an explanation means the worst is true.

  10. Blackberry data is stored on a RIM (now Blackberry) server, not on the device. You could drop your device in the toilet, go to the ATT store, get a new one, turn it on, bingo, got yer emails back.

    At least that was the way it worked when I was working at ATT’s Data Support division …

    1. Unfortunately, the feds have their own servers for Blackberry devices.

      I used to work for a VAR and sold IT equipment to the feds. We were a BB reseller and all of their devices were backed up to their own servers.

      1. So, then they didn’t actually wipe the device. They actively wiped a federal server of incriminating evidence?

        Wow. This bitch has HUGE BALLS.

  11. It seems like the reasonable explanation is that they tried to delete all the emails because they were incriminating. It’s certainly corrupt and illegal, but it’s the most likely explanation.

  12. Can’t they just ask the NSA to turn over all of these records?

    1. Is it a requirement that someone makes this joke on every Lerner thread?

      Not that it doesnt make me smirk every single time.

    2. They could. And they also could go to the big government continuity server in the sky and get the emails. The government has admitted that these emails exist on the continutity server but retrieving them would be “too hard”.

      Think about that for a minute. The whole point of having a continuity program is so that you can retrieve your data if the Muslims or the Ruskies ever blow up Washington. Yet, when there is a federal order to retrieve some of that data, it is just too hard to get.

      It is just amazing how brazen these people are.

      1. Actually, that excuse isn’t necessarily incorrect:

        It might be that the storage system doesn’t lend itself to plucking out individual documents/files.

        For example, I once administered a database application where we couldn’t test our backup/restore system because the only place to restore to was our production server, and the restore operation would overwrite *everything*.

        Basically, we backed up the database and trusted to luck that if ever we needed it the restore system would recreate everything from those backup tapes.

        And no, it wasn’t my idea – I was a lowly sysadmin who followed orders like a guard at Bergen Belsen.

        1. That is an interesting point. But there is no way to get in and search the servers? None? I understand you can’t just restore her individual emails. But why can’t you search the servers and extract them using some kind of search tool?

          1. Subpoena the guys who actually maintain the server for Blackberry, that ain’t no Fed, most likely a Canukistani,tho …

          2. Well if you were the FBI, you might seize the entire damn server, including everything else that’s on it.

            1. If you were the FBI you’d be playing on the same team.

          3. It depends on how that particular backup and restore process is set up.

            It is possible (and I am speculating here) that the process is optimized for restoring an entire system as quickly as possible, and recovering individual files isn’t possible because that was not one of the requirements given to the guy designing the system.

            And, furthermore if they restore to another server, it may be that the other server will try to place itself in a production state, creating a conflict (eg two email servers both claiming to be the true email server).

            However, all of these problems may be circumvented. In the end, I have little doubt that the emails are stored somewhere; in a format that is readily retrievable; and that the notion that they aren’t retreivable is utter bullshit.

  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…..f_evidence

    Would anyone care to enlighten me on how this could apply in this case?

  14. There may be a reasonable explanation for all this.

    There may be a reasonable explanation for all this in the same sense in which a stunningly gorgeous billionaire may declare undying love for me as I walk home this evening. Don’t count on either.

  15. Didn’t the judge order affidavits from the tech dorks a couple weeks ago? This is the result.

  16. If there was any further proof needed that the MSM is in the Democrats back pocket, this is it. This story is 10 times bigger than Watergate, and nary a peep from any major news outlet besides Fox.

  17. Combined with all the other suspicious and convenient omissions, lapses, and losses related to this case, it does make one wonder if perhaps there isn’t a reasonable explanation to be offered.

    Well, of course there is. She targetted the political opposition and they covered it up. What’s unreasonable about that?

  18. The federal bureaucracy will can not be bothered with laws unless they’re bludgeoning peasants over the head with them.

  19. Wow,

    She must be hiding some real whoppers if everyone is going to such lengths.

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