This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 20, 2014:
In early August 2011, when Lois Lerner, then the Director of the Exempt Organizations Unit for the IRS, discovered that her computer had crashed, she asked the internal IT people to help her out and restore her files. By Friday, August 5, she hadn’t heard back from them so she called Lillie Willburn, the IRS Field Director involved. Late Saturday evening she received this from Lillie:
Saturday, August 6, 2011 7:38PM
Re: Careful What You Ask For – UPDATE
Hello, Ms. Lerner, I was just about to send you an update.
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.
Field Director, HQ CSSC
When the lid was blown off the targeting scandal following the release of the Inspector General’s report in May 2013, those missing files and emails all of a sudden became very important. Rep. Darrell Issa, head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, thought they might contain the evidence he was looking for that linked the BOLO– Be On the Lookout – guidelines directly to instructions from the White House to target conservative groups.
New life had been injected into the conservative movement when the Supreme Court ruled in early 2010 in Citizens United that non-profits could engage in “electioneering communications” after all, thanks to the First Amendment. When they began to spring up like Oklahoma corn and apply for tax-exempt status, someone somewhere saw the danger and made a phone call. The rest is history.
In March of that year, the IRS began focusing acutely on the flood of new applications, taking extra special care to delay, dither, or otherwise ignore entirely their requests. Some of the larger outfits were subjected to harassment through such extraordinary demands for additional information that Texas Representative Bill Flores called them “overreaching and impossible to comply with.”
Following the release of the IG report in May 2013, Issa got very interested. He invited Lerner in for a little chat – television crew and full committee were also invited – to see what she knew. Her answer was predictable: she knew nothing about anything. But she was certain that she had broken no laws:
I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.
Then she had the chutzpah to invoke the Fifth Amendment to protect herself from self-incrimination that might result if she did decide to talk after all. That earned for her a citation for Contempt of Congress.
When Issa asked her for her emails during the period of deliberate intimidation and delay of those groups, her agency offered to help – a little. But when he asked specifically for those emails emanating from her desk from March 2010 forward, the answer came back: oops, her computer crashed, the emails were lost, so sorry about that. What really annoyed observers, left, middle, and right, was that although her computer allegedly (and conveniently) crashed way back in 2011, no one knew about it until just this week. Further, six other IRS employees who just happened to be working in her department had their computers crash at the same time. How remarkable. How coincidental. How convenient. How unlikely.
When Issa issued a subpoena for her computer hard drive earlier this week, the Washington Post scoffed, saying that it had been recycled:
The bad news: in 2011, Lerner’s computer crashed. She requested that the IRS’ information technology division try to recover the data from her hard drive.
It wasn’t able to do so, and it appears that individual machines like hers weren’t backed up [either]….
The whole set, it seems, is gone.
Not according to anyone who knows anything about computers and email systems. Nancy Flynn is the executive director of the ePolicy Institute, a company that specializes in helping businesses keep their communications systems safe. She said that even if Lerner’s hard drive had been ground into asphalt, her emails were still out there: on offsite email servers, in separate files kept by other IRS employees, and on the computers of her recipients.
This was confirmed by a fellow at the Claremont Institute, John Hinderaker:
The Obama administration’s claim that the IRS has “lost” two years of Lois Lerner’s emails is implausible to anyone who understands how email systems work.
The Obama administration is lying….
This was further confirmed in a conversation this writer had with his own computer manager. Every email, it seems, skips through various servers like a stone across a pond before landing on the recipient’s computer. There are almost always two servers involved, often more. He said that there’s an entire industry now dedicated to retrieving errant files and emails even from damaged hard disks. He told of a power surge at his own company that fried its hard drive, destroying the master boot program and erasing all the company’s encrypted files. They hired a local company to retrieve what they could. $4,000 and several man-hours later they got it all back.
Lerner isn’t going to be as lucky as Rose Mary Woods who got off scot-free after erasing – due to a “terrible mistake” on her part, so she said – a critical part of a conversation then-President Nixon had with one of his aides over the Watergate Hotel break-in. In front of a grand jury she showed how the “accident” happened: she was transcribing one of the tapes and reached over – waaay over – to turn on the machine while keeping her foot on the pedal that operated it. The photo of the now-infamous “Rose Mary Stretch” is now part of the Watergate archives.
Those emails are out there, Ms. Lerner, and Rep. Issa, the one with the bull-dog mentality, will find them. If they contain the smoking gun as Issa expects, you, Ms. Lerner, will likely enjoy a new much smaller residence. And if the smoking gun is persuasive enough, just like Ms. Woods’ president, so will yours.
A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at www.LightFromTheRight.com, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at email@example.com.
National Review: IRS Source: Lerner’s Hard Drive Likely Destroyed
RealClearPolitics: Lois Lerner Emails: Nothing Digital Ever Dies
The Washington Post: Here’s How the IRS Lost Lerner’s Emails