The bogus IRS email scandal

IssaTea-Publicans who reside in conspiracy theory land have been having a conniption fit over missing e-mails at the IRS as part of their “Made for FAUX News” scandal mongering investigation of the IRS, because conservatives were persecuted for their beliefs 501(c)(4)  social welfare organization tax exempt status was reviewed by the IRS.

Tea-Publicans have tried to make comparisons to Watergate and the infamous 18 and a half minute gap in the Nixon’s tapes as they fantasize about impeachment of President Obama.

Yeah, about those missing emails . . .

First, the missing emails are from two years before the 501(c)(4) social welfare organization tax exempt status review by the IRS in question, so unless we are talking about hot tub time machine travel, the lost emails are neither relevant nor material to this investigation. Not that legal relevancy matters in the fact-free world of conspiracy theory mongering at FAUX News.

Andrew Prokop explains at Vox.com What happened to the lost IRS emails?:

GOP-led House committees have requested documents from various agencies and individuals since the scandal broke — the IRS says it has already spent $10 million complying with such requests.

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At first, the IRS used search terms to narrow down and provide the relevant Lerner emails to the inspector general and Congress — in 2013, the agency handed over more than 10,000 emails Lerner sent or received. But GOP committee chairs Darrell Issa and Dave Camp weren’t satisfied, and wanted to see all of Lerner’s emails since 2009. Early in 2014, the IRS finally agreed to supply them all, and set about collecting them — an expensive, time-consuming process. According to the agency, while doing so, it realized that many of Lerner’s emails prior to April 2011 were missing, and sought to ascertain why.

Last week, the IRS told Congress of its findings — Lerner’s computer crashed in mid-2011, and many of her emails appear to be gone. The agency did manage to reconstruct and supply some of them by pulling them from other employees’ accountsand 67,000 emails that Lerner wrote or received were handed over.

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Is there documentation of this alleged computer crash?

Yes. On June 13, 2011, reference first turns up in internal IRS emails that Lerner’s hard drive had crashed. In a series of emails afterward, Lerner attempted to get technical help restoring her data — but on August 5, 2011, she was informed that it was unrecoverable.

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An email chain that the IRS provided to Congress shows Lerner trying to recover her data, and following up several times, saying there were some “irreplaceable” documents there that she needed:

  • Lerner email to IRS official, 7/19/11: “I’m taking advantage of your offer to try and recapture my lost personal files. My computer skills are pretty basic, so nothing fancy — but there were some documents in the files that are irreplaceable. Whatever you can do to help, is greatly appreciated.”
  • Email from Customer Service Support, 7/20/11: “I checked with the technician and he still has your drive. He wanted to exhaust all avenues to recover the data before sending it to the ‘hard drive cemetery.’ Unfortunately, after receiving assistance from several highly skilled technicians including HP experts, he still cannot recover the data.”
  • Follow-up email from Customer Service Support, 8/05/11: “Unfortunately the news is not good. The sectors on the hard drive were bad which made your data unrecoverable. I am very sorry. Everyone involved tried their best.”

A computer crash wouldn’t usually wipe out email — except that the IRS had a policy that only 500 megabytes of data could be stored on the email server at any one time — and that, if this limit was hit, older emails would have to be moved to the employee’s computer.

Didn’t the IRS back up its email?

It did — but only for six months. After that, the backup tapes were taped over “for cost-efficiency,” the agency wrote. (They’ve since changed their policy.) As mentioned, Lerner’s computer crashed nearly two years before the scandal broke, so those backups would have been long gone by then. IRS employees are also supposed to keep hard copies of some important emails, but, as Philip Bump of the Washington Post explains here, the policy is vague and it’s not clear whether Lerner saved any.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in his opening statement to Darrell “Grand Theft Auto” Issa’s late-night kangaroo court on Monday night: Testy Exchange Erupts as I.R.S. Chief Is Questioned on Messages:

Mr. Koskinen testified that he had hidden nothing from Congress and that he did not learn until April that Ms. Lerner’s emails were missing. “All the emails we have will be provided,” he said in a testy exchange. “I did not say I would provide you emails that disappeared. If you have a magical way for me to do that, I’d be happy to know about it.” [Hot tub time machine!]

Further, he said, the committee had been put on notice last fall that some of Ms. Lerner’s emails had disappeared. “So it should be clear that no one has been keeping this information from the Congress,” he said.

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Mr. Koskinen said no one should be surprised if a computer fails, especially “at the I.R.S. in light of the aged equipment I.R.S. employees often have to use in light of the continual cuts in its budget these past four years.”

John Koskinen, you’re awesome! “I don’t have to take any shit from you, you snot-nosed punk.

All the melodramatic showboating before the cameras for FAUX News that you have witnessed this past week has been over a big nothingburger. All Tea-Publicans are doing is trying to fire up the low information viewers of FAUX News who reside in conspiracy theory land.

They also suffer from convenient short-term memory loss. Remember this? Issa Blamed IBM Software For Loss Of 22 Million Bush Emails:

flying.monkey[T]he GOP’s flying monkeys hoping to put the former IRS official at the center of a massive Obama administration plot to target right-wing “social welfare” organizations need not go back in time to 1973 to decry the lost data. After all, in 2008 current House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa explained how the Bush White House conveniently lost 22 million emails during the Plamegate investigation that led to the conviction of Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

As you’ll recall, millions of Bush White House emails conveniently went missing between 2003 and 2005, including those in the critical days during which the administration formulated its response to Ambassador Joe Wilson and his covert CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame. In July 2007, Darrell Issa accused Plame of perjury. Then, in February 2008, Issa turned IT expert and brushed off the email imbroglio as merely a software problem. As Mother Jones reported that March:

During a House Oversight Committee hearing last month on the preservation of White House records, an indignant Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of Chairman Henry Waxman’s investigations, did his best to play down the extent of the Bush administration’s now well-documented email archiving problems. Defending the White House’s decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the software to “using wooden wagon wheels” and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa’s comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa’s remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software’s manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.

Complicating matters, some 50 Bush White House staffers had used email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee to sidestep federal laws regarding the preservation of digital records. But as CNET reported at the time, Congressman Issa wasn’t concerned about potential crimes, but only the cost of investigating them:

“Are we simply going on a fishing expedition at $40,000 to $50,000 a month?” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked National Archives and White House officials at the hearing. “Do any of you know of a single document, because this committee doesn’t, that should’ve been in the archives but in fact was done at the RNC?”

Thanks to a now-settled lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW], Americans learned in 2009 that “the Bush White House, which initially denied that any e-mails had gone missing, announced in January it had located more than 22 million messages that had been mislabeled after a search by computer technicians, according to court records filed by the government on the day after Bush left office.”

“Alas, that was then and this is now. And now a Democrat is sitting in the Oval Office.” The people of California could do this country a huge favor by voting Darrell “Grand Theft Auto” out of office this November. You should be ashamed for ever having sent him to Congress.

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