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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.

In testimony before Congress in March, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen claimed all the relevant email communications were "stored somewhere" on servers. Perhaps the email backups were recycled and taped over for newer backups, exactly as the IRS now claims? That would be pretty handy, especially since the IRS waited a year to tell Congress the emails were nonexistent. Do you suppose it might take a year to completely wipe all electronic evidence, backups and other redundant measures? With no documented proof, are we supposed to believe 'Lerner acted alone'?

The agency "pieced together" 24,000 emails "from the computers of 83 other IRS employees" copied in Lerner emails from 2009 to 2011. In total, the IRS produced over 750,000 documents to the tune of $10 million; the emails that disappeared are "mainly ones to and from people outside the IRS, 'such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices'."

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp asked President Obama to supply any emails between the White House and Lerner for the period between January 2009 and April 2011. If you think incriminating electronic evidence will be supplied, then you might also buy into the theory that the NSA — the agency that will neither confirm nor deny scooping up Americans' communications — will actually provide "all metadata" collected from Lerner's email accounts to prove who she contacted and when.

While no one seems to believe IRS IT could be this epically mismanaged, it is true that the IRS missed the Windows XP deadline and agreed to pay "less than $500,000" to Microsoft for continued XP security patches. After all, it's not like Microsoft only gave a month's warning that 12-year-old OS would be retired; the end of Windows XP was announced in 2008. The IRS plan was to spend $30 million to finish migrating to Windows 7, yet when XP support ended, only about 52,000 of 110,000 Windows-powered desktops and notebooks had been "upgraded" to Windows 7.

When the IRS first began using computers back in 1961, people were horrified; if Lerner's "lost" email provides a snapshot overview of how those IRS computers are managed, then people in 2014 really should be horrified....unless the "lost" excuse starts working in reverse when the IRS wants some receipt from a decade ago?


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