June 16 2014
The Computer Ate My Emails
Patrice J. Lee
The saying goes that it’s often not the crime but the cover-up that gets people in trouble. From the start of the IRS scandal over a year ago, it’s been apparent that one of the most powerful federal agencies has done everything it can to downplay and cover up its targeting of conservative and tea party nonprofit groups. If there has been collusion with anyone at the White House, Department of Justice, and other federal agencies, the IRS has swept it under the rug.
Last week, email evidence of proposed collusion between the head of the nonprofit division and the Justice Department were uncovered. This week more evidence disappeared thanks to technology.
According to the IRS, a 2011 computer crash significantly hindered its efforts to find correspondence requested as part of a congressional review of the agency's treatment of conservative groups. The main star of the saga is retired IRS nonprofit head Lois Lerner. The IRS came up with 24,000 of Lerner's emails from 2009 to 2011. It can only reproduce emails between Lerner and IRS staff not those with her and other entities such as the White House, Justice Department, Treasury, FEC, or Democratic offices. The IRS did this by getting emails from 83 other IRS employees that had cc’s of Lerner emails. No one knows how many of Ms. Lerner’s emails have vanished.
That’s equivalent of saying the dog ate my homework. That excuse didn’t fly in school and it shouldn’t be accepted now from our federal government. Let’s not forget that our government has the ability to watch us playing in our back yards from satellites in space. Why should we believe that a computer crash permanently removed emails from one computer and conveniently those are emails that could have indicated wrong doing.
In a statement, Dave Camp, chairman of the House committee investigating the IRS scandal, noted:
“The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’s response to Congressional inquiries. There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General.
“Just a short time ago, Commissioner Koskinen promised to produce all Lerner documents. It appears now that was an empty promise...This failure of the IRS requires the White House, which promised to get to the bottom of this, to do an Administration-wide search and production of any emails to or from Lois Lerner. The Administration has repeatedly referred us back to the IRS for production of materials. It is clear that is wholly insufficient when it comes to determining the full scope of the violation of taxpayer rights.”
This just keeps getting worse and looking increasingly sinister on the part of Lerner, the White House, and other agencies. It strikes me as a bit too convenient that the emails they are unable to piece together would be those which indicate this scandal wasn’t limited to Lerner or a few rogue agents but might have been a wider effort to put the kibosh on political dissent from conservative and Tea Party groups.
As taxpayers, we deserve more than a flaccid excuse. Finally, the IRS is complying saying it is producing 67,000 emails to and from Lerner and has so far put dozens of staff at a cost of $10 million to get actual documents turned over. But as this investigation trudges on it appears increasingly like many of the critical facts and evidence will remain lost.
As a Forbes columnist notes, “it may begin to sound to some people as if the grassy knoll of the key emails may remain shrouded. That is one more black eye for the IRS, an important agency that has had too many.”