The Tale of Missing IRS E-Mails Gets More and More Curious

from – Real Clear Markets – by Diana Furchtgott-Roth

The tale of the Internal Revenue Service missing emails gets more curious day by day. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, it was revealed on Friday that the emails of Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations at the IRS, were backed up on federal government equipment and have been available to congressional investigators all along-if the administration had only chosen to produce them.

Congressional committees are interested in the emails because Lerner’s office delayed granting tax-exempt status to conservative organizations in the months leading up to the 2012 election. No liberal organizations complained of a delay in granting tax-exempt status. Emails written by Lerner and released by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) show a bias against conservatives.

The existence of the email backup was revealed to Judicial Watch by Justice Department attorneys for the IRS, who probably thought that since August is a favorite vacation month, no one would notice.

Judicial Watch has gone to court because the IRS did not provide the missing emails. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, an African American Clinton appointee, is overseeing the case.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a press statement, “The Obama administration had been lying to the American people about Lois Lerner’s missing emails. There are no ‘missing’ Lois Lerner emails – nor missing emails of any of the other top IRS or other government officials whose emails seem to be disappearing at increasingly alarming rate. All the focus on missing hard drives has been a diversion. The Obama administration has known all along where the email records could be – but dishonestly withheld this information.”

Sadly, the IRS has careened from one episode of politically motivated deception-the targeting of conservative groups-to another episode of politically motivated deception-covering up the initial deception. The IRS is the federal government agent that collects taxes for the public good, but the IRS, in appearance or reality, has turned tax collection into a political sport.

All of this is profoundly wrong. Aside from the judiciary, no governmental institution should inspire greater confidence of the American public than the IRS. While all of the rest of government may wallow in the mud of political corruption, the IRS needs to be above the fray, both in appearance and reality. President Nixon attempted to use the IRS to punish his political enemies; the IRS of the 1970s rebuffed him and refused to engage in partisan politics. The current IRS may have lost its former moral standing.

When Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on June 23, he said that he only recently found out that Lerner’s emails were unobtainable after the crash of her hard drive on June 13, 2011. An incredulous House committee peppered him with questions as to how the IRS could possibly not have a backup.

Koskinen assured them that no backup existed. It turns out that the skeptical House members were right: there was a backup. However, the IRS is saying that accessing the backup system would be too difficult, and so they are not turning over the emails.

Lerner’s computer crashed 10 days after Congress expressed concern about possible targeting of conservative groups. Emails between January 2009 and April 2011 were lost. Her computer is not available for examination, because it has already been recycled by the IRS. The House Government Reform Committee was informed that a backup tape of agency emails made by the IRS was erased after 6 months.

Friday’s documents show that not only is a government backup of the emails available, but a backup of Lerner’s BlackBerry is likely available as well. Lerner’s government BlackBerry contained all her emails, but it was destroyed a year after her hard drive crashed. She was issued a second BlackBerry, whose contents have not been released.

Thomas Kane, Deputy Associate Chief Counsel for Procedure and Administration within the Office of Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service, declared in an affidavit dated August 22 that Lerner’s BlackBerry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”

An affidavit submitted the same day by Stephen Manning, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Strategy and Modernization, stated that “There is no record of any attempt by any IRS IT employee to recover data from any Blackberry device assigned to Lois Lerner in response to the Congressional investigations or this litigation.” In June 2011, when Lerner’s computer crashed, he was Chief Information Officer, Enterprise Networks.

Back in June, Koskinen told members of the House Government Reform Committee that IRS staff are supposed to print out emails of importance and save them as official records, and that there was not necessarily any wrongdoing due to loss of emails-because all official records should have been preserved on paper.

Now that Koskinen knows the emails exist, one would expect that he would apologize to the Committee and produce the emails. So far, neither of these has happened.

letter from House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) to Attorney General Eric Holder complains that the Department of Justice attorneys involved with the investigation of the IRS have previous relationships with Lerner, and therefore have conflicts of interest.

It is extraordinarily troubling that over the past five years the IRS has been concentrating its power, giving the agency increased opportunities to use its power to make life more difficult for people and groups it dislikes.

The only way for the IRS to regain the confidence of the American people is for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to ensure transparency and renewed trust.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, directs Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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8 years ago

Uh huh, when Obamacare was passed by the socialist members of Congress, Obama right away hired 12,000 attorneys for the IRS, that’s right, attorneys, not accountants! Who better to harass, antagonize and threaten anybody who disagrees with their policy. The practitioners of “reasonable doubt” should have just stuck to the old standby excuse of … “the dog ate them” … just as believable as “they were somehow lost” … The lies and deceit will never end as long as our legislatures, state and federal, as well as governmental employees are saturated with attorneys, the scum of the earth!

Both parties, Socialist and Republican, are filled with attorney politicians … BAN ALL ATTORNEYS FROM HOLDING POLITICAL OFFICE AND BRING HONESTY BACK TO GOVERNMENT!!!!!!

8 years ago

Several weeks ago, I provided a sufficiently detailed explanation of how enterprise level e-mail systems work, in plain English, so AMAC members could understand why what Mr. Koskinen was saying was factually inaccurate. A “crashed” hard drive on a laptop would NOT result in the loss of any e-mails, since everything sent via the e-mail system is retained on the e-mail server’s own hard drives and all subsequent full and incremental backups of that server. Thus dozens of copies of ALL the e-mails in question exist in off-site data storage facilities. I also referenced the federal law that requires backups. such as these, be retained for a 5 to 7 year time frame as part of a standard IT disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, my post vanished off the site after a few hours. Given the time and effort it took to compose the post, I decided against trying to re-type everything all over again.

Suffice it to say that it would be a very straightforward task to recover not only Lois Lerner’s e-mails, but also the e-mails of the other IRS employees, whose e-mails were also requested by Congress, who claimed their laptops also crashed at the same time. They’re all on the server backups, of which there are several copies, sitting in an off-site data storage facility. The sooner we get away from this red herring involving laptops and their hard drives, the sooner we can see what the administration has been so keen to keep under wraps.

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