Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s computer hard drive was “scratched” and the data on it was still recoverable. But the IRS did not try to recover the data from Lerner’s hard drive, despite recommendations from in-house IRS IT experts to outsource the recovery project.
The hard drive was then “shredded,” according to a court filing the IRS made to House Ways and Means Committee investigators.
The IRS claims that it lost Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2011 including emails to and from the White House, when her computer crashed in the midst of the agency’s conservative targeting program. The IRS also claimed in a transcribed interview that many other IRS employees who worked under Lerner in her Washington, D.C. department and its Cincinnati-based affiliate also experienced computer crashes that deleted their emails, bringing the total number of crash victims to “less than 20.” (RELATED: Meet the First 7 IRS Employees Whose Computers Crashed)
IRS officials trying to deal with investigations into the IRS scandal first learned on February 2, 2014 that many of Lerner’s emails were missing, according to new transcribed testimony, and confirmed that her computer had crashed two days later. But IRS Commissioner John Koskinen failed to disclose Lerner’s computer crash at a House Oversight hearing the very next month. (RELATED: Paul Ryan Goes Ballistic On IRS Commissioner Over Lost Emails: ‘I Don’t Believe You’)
It is unclear whether the scratch was deliberate or accidental, investigators noted. The IRS canceled its contract with its California-based email-archiving company Sonasoft on September 8, 2011, just two months after Lerner’s computer crash, when the agency still possessed a six-month backup tape of Lerner’s emails, which it did not check. The Federal Records Act required the IRS to keep Lerner’s emails. Computer data storage systems, meanwhile, were prematurely “retired” at IRS IT headquarters in suburban Maryland. (IRS CANCELLED Contract with Email-Storage Firm Weeks After Lerner’s Computer Crash)
“It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp. “The Committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded. To now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrong doing at the IRS.”
Camp vowed that his investigators would not stop working until “we find the full truth.” IRS commissioner Koskinen, meanwhile, is testifying again Wednesday before the oversight committee’s investigations subcommittee at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill.
There may be a chance that this new evidence of record destruction will galvanize mainstream news reporters to ask tough questions of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest at the next press conference.
After it was revealed on September 29, 1973 that President Richard Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods “accidentally” deleted eighteen and a half minutes of a June 1972 White House tape, the press was pretty critical of the Watergate-entangled Republican president.
Here’s a clip of Nixon’s October 26, 1973 press conference after the gap was revealed (and no, we’ve never seen that kind of fevered atmosphere in a White House press conference before. We sent a high school intern in there once and they wrote about our impropriety in the Huffington Post):