IRS Finally Examines Backup Tapes, Recovers 30,000 'Missing' Lois Lerner Emails
from the oh,-you-mean-THESE-backup-tapes? dept
Whether or not the IRS is subjecting certain politically-affiliated groups to an unfair amount of attention remains to be seen. What is indisputable is that the agency’s document retention policies are an unenforced joke. As citizens, we’re required to hold onto pertinent financial records for 2-7 years just in case the IRS wants to look through them. The IRS, however, seemingly only retains records for as long as it can keep itself from inadvertently destroying them.
Emails from IRS official Lois Lerner have been sought for several months. At first, the IRS said it had them. Then it said it couldn’t find them. Then it said Lerner’s computer suffered a hard drive crash, taking with it a bunch of the emails being sought. Then it said more computers had crashed, taking out even more emails. Then it said it had recycled the crashed hard drives, making any data unrecoverable.
Questions were asked, most of them being “Bro, do you even back up files to a server?” Apparently, the IRS did no such thing, or was unaware of it, or didn’t understand the question… and so on. The IRS admitted it told officials to print out and save emails (per internal guidance) but apparently no one took these rules very seriously, as there was no hard copy to be found either. A Justice Department official noted that there were backups, but that it was too hard to recover stuff from them, before dozing off in mid-sentence.
Now, all of a sudden (well, actually on a pre-Thanksgiving week Friday afternoon), the IRS has suddenly found the emails it claimed were lost.
Up to 30,000 missing emails sent by former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner have been recovered by the IRS inspector general, five months after they were deemed lost forever.
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) informed congressional staffers from several committees on Friday that the emails were found among hundreds of “disaster recovery tapes” that were used to back up the IRS email system.
The prodigal Lerner emails have returned! And there was much rejoicing, especially in Darrell Issa’s camp, which has been applying much of the pressure over the past several months.
It will still be some time before these emails are turned over, however. The investigators looked through 744 disaster recovery tapes, holding an estimated 250 million emails and says it will be a few weeks before the recovered emails are in a readable format. If this goes at the usual speed of government, it will be next year before the emails even make their way into the hands of the investigating committee, and longer than that before the public can take a look for itself.
The good news is that despite the IRS’s internal failures, the system still mostly worked. A backup backed up files and (after much hassling) an internal investigation recovered most of what had been declared officially missing. It’s almost enough to restore your faith in the IRS (and the government as a whole), except for almost everything else about the IRS (and the government as a whole).