Lerner e-mails likely gone forever, IRS claims, as hard drive was "thrown away"

Old and busted: “The dog ate our e-mails.” New hotness: “The dog ate our e-mails, so we put him down.” The IRS announced last night — after a subpoena from House Oversight chair Darrell Issa — that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had been either “thrown away” or recycled, which means at least for the moment that none of her interagency e-mails can be recovered:


“We’ve been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a brief hallway interview.

Two additional sources told POLITICO the same late Wednesday, citing IRS officials.

It may just be standard government procedure, but the revelation is significant because some lawmakers and observers thought there was a way that tech experts could revive Lerner’s emails after they were washed away in a computer crash in the summer of 2011. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), for example, subpoenaed her damaged hard drive earlier this week, when he asked for “all hard drives, external drives, thumb drives and computers” and “all electronic communication devices the IRS issued to Lois G. Lerner.”

“IT experts have weighed in and said yes — we can get those” emails, said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) earlier Wednesday.

The latest news suggests such professionals may never get the chance to try again — and the IRS has even said its criminal investigators who specialize in rebuilding hard drives to recover hidden information from criminals were unable to restore the data back in 2011. But this is only likely to further enrage Republicans, who are fuming over the matter and suspect Washington officials drove the selective scrutiny.


Eliana Johnson reports the same at NRO:

In the wake of the news that a computer crash destroyed over two years’ worth of Lois Lerner’s emails, House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa on Tuesday subpoenaed her hard drive. Unfortunately, according to a source in the IRS’ IT department, that subpoena is unlikely to turn up much.

As a matter of practice, says the source, the IRS discards damaged hard drives after wiping them of all data. ”If we can run them, we have to wipe them,” he says. If they will not run, the agency destroys them completely by magnetically degaussing them.

In both cases, the damaged hard drives are disposed of. “You’re not supposed to keep them around,” the source says. “You destroy the data.”

What. A. Coincidence! Much of Lerner’s intra-agency e-mail correspondence (that is, within the IRS) has been reconstituted through searches of others’ e-mails. However, Issa and Ways and Means chair Dave Camp specifically wanted the communications between Lerner and others outside the IRS — especially any potential e-mails between Lerner and the Department of Justice and the White House. Those e-mails, if they existed, might tend to shed some light on who ordered Lerner to conduct extra scrutiny of conservative tax-exempt applicants, and how high up the coordination went.


Without backups or the drives, those communications have been lost. Unless Lerner testifies, which she has so far refused to do, or unless the House subpoenas all executive-branch e-mails, they’re likely lost forever.

Ron Fournier has a question for editors:

That’s also the main theme of my column today at The Fiscal Times. Forty years ago, aggressive media investigation into executive-branch abuse of power — including the use of the IRS against political opponents — forced the only resignation of a US President in history. Today, the media seems a lot more interested in whether an obvious abuse of power against an administration’s political opponents has a high Q-rating, or whether we should give the IRS even more resources after this scandal:

Missing tapes? Abuse of power? It’s 1974 all over again, with one exception – there seems to be no Woodward and Bernstein interested in delving into an abuse of power and a cover-up. …

With all of these red flags and roadblocks on transparency, one might think that the media might start getting a little more interested in the scope of this abuse of power. Instead, the only curiosity appears to be whether this all means that the IRS should get even more money in its budget, because tape backups for more than six months apparently breaks the bank in an agency that gets $11.3 billion in the FY2014 budget. …

Perhaps the hue and cry over the lost funding will finally start to interest the media forty years after their tenacity over abuse of executive power forced accountability on a corrupt administration.

Unfortunately, a lot has changed since Watergate – and a lot hasn’t.


The IRS has a high stink rating in terms of corruption and cover-up, and perhaps an even higher stink rating among the media for their disinterest in the ridiculous excuses coming from this administration in their attempt to stonewall Congress.

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