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IRS computer crash eats email evidence: Conspiracy or 'worst IT department ever'?

Ms. Smith | June 18, 2014
You might think that people participating in illegal or unconstitutional activity would know better than to leave any digital footprint evidence at all; if folks failed to follow how-not-to-be-nailed-as-a-criminal 101, then destroying electronic evidence so it cannot be forensically recovered would likely be the next move. Although a person could blame missing data on a computer "glitch" or crash, getting rid of every digital trace would be a huge undertaking in this world of redundant backups and cloud storage. Considering the data that supposedly went poof is two years' worth of email from the director of a government agency division, it's little wonder that no techies believe it.

You might think that people participating in illegal or unconstitutional activity would know better than to leave any digital footprint evidence at all; if folks failed to follow how-not-to-be-nailed-as-a-criminal 101, then destroying electronic evidence so it cannot be forensically recovered would likely be the next move. Although a person could blame missing data on a computer "glitch" or crash, getting rid of every digital trace would be a huge undertaking in this world of redundant backups and cloud storage. Considering the data that supposedly went poof is two years' worth of email from the director of a government agency division, it's little wonder that no techies believe it.

We're talking about the congressional investigation into the IRS allegedly targeting Tea Party and conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. Lois Lerner, former Director of the Exempt Organizations Division at the IRS, previously chose to plead the Fifth Amendmenttwice. On Friday, after the IRS blamed (pdf) a "convenient computer crash" in 2011 for wiping out two years' worth of Lerner's emails, pundits started saying it smelled like another Watergate coverup.

If the IRS is being honest and those emails are truly lost, then that means the IRS is "totally mismanaged and has the worst IT department ever," according to former Microsoft program manager Norman Cillo. He told TheBlaze six reasons why the IRS's claim of "lost" email is preposterous, starting with the fact that "the government uses Microsoft Exchange for their email servers" and that means database redundancy. So unless the IRS "did not follow Microsoft's recommendation," the agency is lying.

Someone claiming to be an attorney for the Justice Department, yet wanting to remain anonymous, contacted PowerLine to state:

"I'm a DOJ lawyer, so you obviously cannot use my name or any identifying information. But the idea that a 'hard drive crash' somehow destroyed all of Ms. Lerner's intra-government email correspondence during the period in question [2009-2011] is laughable. Government email servers are backed up every night. So if she actually had a hard drive fail, her emails would be recoverable from the backup. If the backup was somehow also compromised, then we are talking about a conspiracy."

Although it is not listed as appropriate actions in the IRS public records for Managing Electronic Records, including email, perhaps Lerner archived all her email in a local .pst file that was destroyed after a hard drive failure? The IRS claimed it has "determined that Ms. Lerner's computer crashed in mid-2011...The data stored on her computer's hard drive was determined to be 'unrecoverable' by the IT [information technology] professionals."

 

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