Ways and Means Committee: We've learned that Lois Lerner's hard drive was scratched -- but data was recoverable

We’re getting closer to the inevitable comic finale of this charade, when video emerges of Lerner beating her hard drive with a hammer and House Democrats still end up arguing that Republicans are jumping to conclusions.

There’s literally nothing, short of a videotaped confession of wrongdoing, that’ll make suspicions about this bipartisan. And since we’re three and a half months out from an election, I’m not sure a confession would do it either.

Despite early refusals to make available IT professionals who worked on Lois Lerner’s computer, Ways and Means Committee investigators have now learned from interviews that the hard drive of former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner was “scratched,” but data was recoverable. In fact, in-house professionals at the IRS recommended the Agency seek outside assistance in recovering the data. That information conflicts with a July 18, 2014 court filing by the Agency, which stated the data on the hard drive was unrecoverable – including multiple years’ worth of missing emails…

It is also unknown whether the scratch was accidental or deliberate, but former federal law enforcement and Department of Defense forensic experts consulted by the Committee say that most of the data on a scratched drive, such as Lerner’s, should have been recoverable. However, in a declaration filed last Friday by the IRS, the agency said it tried but failed to recover the data, but is not sure what happened to the hard drive afterwards other than saying they believe it was recycled, which, according to the court filing means “shredded.”

Further complicating the situation, the Committee’s investigation has revealed evidence that this declaration may not be accurate. A review of internal IRS IT tracking system documents revealed that Lerner’s computer was actually once described as “recovered.” In a transcribed interview on July 18, IRS IT employees were unable to confirm the accuracy of the documents or the meaning of the entry “recovered.”

So, to sum up, (1) the hard drive was physically damaged somehow; (2) the computer is mysteriously missing now, despite possibly having been recovered at one point; and (3) the IRS apparently ignored the advice of its own tech people in declining to bring in outside help to get the data back. I have the same question Ace does: How does a modern hard drive end up being scratched, and not just scratched to the point that some of the data is unavailable but basically all of it is? Is there any innocent explanation for that, like accidentally dropping a computer off a desk? I asked Hot Air’s webmaster and resident tech expert, Mark Jaquith, and he told me it’s possible to physically scratch the drive by dropping a laptop: Although the drive’s R/W heads have some give, a modern laptop’s accelerometer could quickly “park” those heads in place, producing a metal-on-metal effect. That could wipe out some data or the FAT table (the drive’s glossary) or a “platter,” which would render the drive inaccessible for physical reasons. Mark says, though, that a metal-on-metal scratch would make a terrible noise. I don’t recall Lerner claiming that she dropped her computer or heard any such noise like that before her hard drive failed, but am happy to be corrected if I missed something.

Also, what about the “less than 20” other IRS employees who lost data after their computers crashed? More scratches? The taxman’s hands sure are slippery when he’s toting his laptop around.

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