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After Non-Profit Application Furor, IRS Says It's Lost 2 Years Of Lerner's Email 372

Posted by timothy
from the computer-crashed-whaddya-do dept.
As reported by the Associated Press, via US News & World Report, the IRS says that it cannot locate much of the email sent by a former IRS official over a two-year period. "The IRS told Congress Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year. Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups." Three congressional committees are investigating the agency because of the allegations of politically motivated mishandling of those applications, as is the Justice Department and the IRS's own inspector general. As the story says, "Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington were closely involved in the handling of tea party applications, many of which languished for more than a year without action. But so far, they have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the agency directed the targeting or even knew about it." CBS News has a slightly different version, also based on the AP's reporting.
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After Non-Profit Application Furor, IRS Says It's Lost 2 Years Of Lerner's Email

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  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:23PM (#47233735)

    As soon as the Obama administration lives up to their promise of being the most transparent administration in the history of the ministry of truth

  • Very fishy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrLogic17 (233498) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:24PM (#47233741) Journal

    I'd love to see what she would say to a taxpayer "losing" 2 years of receipts during an audit.

    I think that "my bad" wouldn't be enough.

  • Re: Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:24PM (#47233743)

    The messiah of transparency fails yet again. In the private sector, incompetency like this would be a career-killer. In government, though, it's business as usual.

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:29PM (#47233779) Homepage

    I think it's POP3 for a very convenient reason.

    "Oops, lost my shit...oh well" Yeah, real fucking convenient.

  • Re: Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Onuma (947856) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:31PM (#47233789)
    Incorrect. This is how they promote people.
  • by SocietyoftheFist (316444) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:35PM (#47233809)

    Everybody should be depressed and angry but they are complacent. New chief executive, same ole shit. Corruption and lies.

  • Re:Very fishy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:37PM (#47233819)

    I'd love to see what she would say to a taxpayer "losing" 2 years of receipts during an audit.

    I think that "my bad" wouldn't be enough.

    Welcome to the realities of asymmetric power.

  • by Copid (137416) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:54PM (#47233913)
    Last time I worked for a big corporation with a large IT department, we had a ridiculously small total space limit for emails stored on our server. It always seemd ridiculous to me until a senior IT guy said that it's basically for legal discovery reasons. As long as you have a policy of purging everything from your servers on a certain schedule (or based on size limits or some other reasonable variable that's not explicilty "purge the email because we're about to be sued"), you can minimize your what's available for discovery when somebody takes you to court and demands "all emails pertaining to X." You give them what you have on the server and odds are good that the employee hasn't kept copies of anything too old on thier PC, so if the opposition tries to drag out stuff from more than a year or so back, they're usually out of luck.
  • umm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by superwiz (655733) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:55PM (#47233919) Journal
    Were those her emails to herself? Otherwise, they went through servers. This isn't a school board email server.... it's the IRS. Does anyone seriously think they don't have copious records of all the documents? My dog ate my homework? If you are gonna post any kind of credible reply to this, don't be an AC. Any AC reply to this will be assume to be coming from the legal staff of the Criminal Democratic Party.
  • by superwiz (655733) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:58PM (#47233929) Journal
    It's the IIII RRRRR SSSSS. You know.... the people who get electronic records of all executed buy/sell orders of all the public exchanges... among other electronic documents that they manage of infinitely higher complexity than an email server. Yeah, crashing computers is NOT the reason they don't have those emails. This isn't kindergarten. IRS losing a Summer's worth of emails of a supervisor-level employee doesn't even work as a science fiction scenario.
  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:07PM (#47233967)
    Snowden said he sent emails to the appropriate internal authorities before he went rogue, and the NSA said they couldn't find them. Everyone in the political establishment believed the NSA version. Now the IRS says that they can't find emails because of a technical problem, and no one believes them.

    The NSA are professional liars. They've been caught lying about a huge number of things: spying on friendly foreign leaders, mass phone surveillance on everyone in the USA, modifying routers before they are shipped overseas, etc.

    Double standard much? Who is more likely to be lying: the NSA or the IRS? Everyone in Washington are going after the IRS. Committees are meeting, IRA officials are testifying under oath, criminal investigations have been started. Higher ups at the IRA are going to be forced out, and there will be criminal charges. The same thing is also going to occur with the Veteran's Administration scandal.

    Meanwhile over at the NSA, the sound of crickets. They claim that their own secret investigations have found they did everything right. Somehow this seems good enough. No one has been called to task. Even the people responsible for letting Snowden get access to all that information seem to be off the hook.

    As bad as the IRS and VA situations are, they pale in comparison to the NSA situation and yet nothing has happened as a result. It's business as usual. The NSA is completely unaccountable to anybody for anything, and when they do screw up nothing happens to any insiders. This is guaranteed to result in a culture of incompetence. We are in big trouble.

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:14PM (#47234007) Homepage
    The government has days retention laws though, this should not be an issue, it should be on a server or on backups, also they have the resources to recover from a bad hdd
  • by Krishnoid (984597) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:20PM (#47234041) Journal

    Everyone in the political establishment believed the NSA version. Now the IRS says that they can't find emails because of a technical problem, and no one believes them.

    Because the NSA watches over us to protect our freedoms, and they're the good guys. The IRS takes away our money, so they're the bad guys. See? Not that difficult to understand.

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:21PM (#47234049) Homepage
    Bullshit, its all irrelevant to the issue at hand. The irs specifically targeted groups they didnt like and asked them to jump through hoops.which were highly illegal. For example you cant ask them for their member list, or if they are religious, all things asked. If they did the same thing to socialsts communists black panthers gay groups women groups or the kkk, id still feel the same, this shouldnt be partisain, unless you beleive it was ok and that makes it ok when the other side has the whitehouse...remember that
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:26PM (#47234079)

    Two years of emails?!? Nixon only lost 18 1/2 minutes of the Watergate Tapes and he had to resign.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:37PM (#47234127) Journal

    There seems to be a cabal of people who will spend all their mod points modding everything on your posting history down if they find you posted something they find particularly offensive. This causes a lot of people to post controversial stufff as AC.

    There are also groups of people like groupies who follow topics in order to impress a particular viewpoint that seems to match their worldview. Both seem to be problems on Slashdot in the last couple of years.

    You will find that with the retaliation that seems to be going on in today's environment, people just don't want their online persona associated with something controversial. There is the mass down modding to ruin your karma and restrict your posting abilities but also take Mozilla for instance. They canned a new CEO (who had been working for them in other offices since their inception) for something he did 8 years ago that had the majority support of his community at the time. What will you be driven away from or refused or jailed or whatever retaliation that happens in 8 years over a comment you made today or yesterday?

  • by JonathanR (852748) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:03PM (#47234205)

    Amazing how ineffective these intelligence agencies are when the issue in question goes against the absolute power agenda...

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:04PM (#47234215) Homepage Journal

    I would settle for this Administration following the rule of law.

  • by s.petry (762400) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:06PM (#47234225)

    If you think that the Government does not have backups, you are sorely mistaken. Federal regulation requires backups and maintenance of backups of all mail data. Durations may vary slightly between certain divisions, but in almost all cases this is required and not optional.

    That said, the issue is what regulations have they broken if in fact they are claiming correctly that a persons computer was configured and managed illegally? Followed immediately by "Who is going to lose their job in addition to Lois Lerner?" I have a feeling that if jail time is threatened for management and employees responsible for mismanagement, backups may magically appear.

    Then again, they could be telling the truth which should not prevent the termination of employees failing to follow regulation and law. Simple solutions to these types of problems have huge impact on future cases.

  • by Tailhook (98486) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:37PM (#47234367)

    if you think any but a handful of emails that aren't sent to or from the a White House are required by the FRA to be archived

    Having read the statute, prior to hitting my crack pipe, I see no such "White House" criteria.

    You may read the latest revision of the IRS interpretation of the statute here [irs.gov], where you will learn that e-mail — all e-mail — that meets that statutory definition of a "record" must be preserved within either an "electronic recordkeeping system," as defined by the IRS manual and well beyond Lois's broken computer, or "must be printed out and placed in the appropriate record system." Any e-mail communication Lois made regarding the disposition of some non-profit's status would obviously have qualified as a "record" under the plain language of 1.15.6-1.

    And yes, we do prosecute people [stltoday.com] for destruction of government records. Probably not the protected political appointee hatchet-people of the powers-that-be, but it does happen, because it's criminal.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday June 13, 2014 @10:07PM (#47234493) Journal

    I would settle for any administration to follow the law. But yes, it would be nice to start with the present one, and work our way forward. And a good message would be sent by also indicting the surviving criminals from past ones. Alas, it is but a fantasy of mine.

    Just a note about this IRS "scandal", The only group that was actually denied was a "liberal" group, the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. So boo on anyone that is trying to keep the story alive.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday June 13, 2014 @11:34PM (#47234745) Journal
    The real question that should be asked is why are political think tanks granted charity status in the first place? They are often simply a front for monied self interest, pushing self interest through political propaganda is what they are all about. Regardless of whether I agree of disagree with their propaganda, I don't see why they should get a tax break just for disseminating it?
  • Re:Yawn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @12:17AM (#47234857) Homepage Journal

    Not merely the majority of investigations and delays were targeted against politically conservative groups, but the nature of the investigations, is an issue.

    If you think some progressive, liberal, or activist groups were also discriminated against, give Issa's office a call. He's probably happy to investigate even more accusations.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @12:29AM (#47234891)

    I'd love to see what she would say to a taxpayer "losing" 2 years of receipts during an audit.

    Its better than that. Imagine if you only lost the receipts that were of interest to the IRS, that you still have many receipts that they are not interested in.

    From the article:
    "Camp's office said the missing emails are mainly ones to and from people outside the IRS, "such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices.""

    Can we just have a flat tax (that phases in at the poverty line, not literally flat) and no deductions? Then the IRS can be scaled down to a small fraction of its current size and have very little power, no deduction no power to interpret things. As an added bonus it removes a major source of political corruption, the creating of those deductions for influential constituents.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @12:47AM (#47234929)

    Its not that hard to recover data from a crashed drive most of the time.

    Assuming you actually want to recover it. The crash seem to occur about the same time the controversial policy was coming to light and the emails might be considered incriminating. Just a coincidence I'm sure.

  • Re:umm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cytotoxic (245301) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @01:05AM (#47234985)

    We are not talking about email in 1998. By the early 2000's even small to midsized businesses were having to face document retention policies and discovery requests. Whether by implementing in-house solutions like Vault or using outside services to implement email retention and discovery most companies had to have this in place for more than a decade. The IRS has nearly 90,000 employees. Their IT shop is no mom-and-pop operation.

    So to claim that all outside email was lost from 2010 is pretty shocking. The client computer mention might be an error, or it might be that an outside email service was being used. If the latter is the case, this should be a huge red flag.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @03:26AM (#47235235)

    There's this principle, as part of the RICO act, that says creating a lot of shell corporations, where money moves around between companies in a very complicated way and it's very hard to track it, is one of the signs of an organized crime operation. Parts of the RICO law are written to deal with this specific method. For ciriminals to use this method, they have to build enough shell corps to make tracking the money very hard - a few won't do it, twenty or 50 or 119 is better. The Idea is that the more levels of shells there are, the more time the organization has to delay a criminal investigation, as the investigators have to keep going back to a judge and getting more warrents for new records. If they don't find anything the first few times, the judge is likely to stop giving them more warrents, plus there's more time to move money into places such as offshore accounts, or for the top dogs to skip the country if they must.
              There weren't a whole bunch of new PACs and such made by the Democrats in that election cycle, but because of the very nature of the Tea Party movement, we saw a lot of Tea party this and Tea Party that, over a hundred new non-profits for states, groups of states, and particular parts of the movement. In many cases, some of the Tea party organizers put their names on multiple applications in different positions, which is another sign of potential shell corporations. That's another possible red flag under RICO, seeing the same person's name for different positions in different corporations which are being formed in multiple states, as is seeing organizations incorporated in odd states (i.e.a company doing businesss only in Arkansas, but incorporating in Florida). (Delaware is somewhat of an exception to this, as their laws make it popular for many businesses to incorporate there, but I don't think there are any real advantages to incorporating in Delaware for non-profits).
              The IRS has also long had a position that even if something is technically legal to do as the law is written, it can still be illlegal if the primary purpose of doing it appears to be not to achieve whatever goal the law endorses, but to evade taxes. That means they could have approached this as a case where some of these new organizations might not qualify as their particular type of non-profit, AND might have made a profit AND had the intent to avoid paying the taxes that would entail. Technically, if somebody screws up and didn't stay within the non-profit rules, the IRS next looks to see if they made money, and if they did, for the third step the IRS gets to assume that the mistake in claiming non-profit status isn't an innocent mistake, but a deliberate way to evade taxes on that money. If you think about it, this makes a certain amount of sense - as the plaintiff at that point is often arguing that they accidentally made a profit without trying to, and they just coincidentally filed as a non-profit by innocent mistake. The press has tended to treat this as though the new non-profits could be set up wrong quite innocently, and have made a profit under law, but not done anything really wrong unless the IRS could prove some sort of intent, but the law normally assumes people don't make profits accidentally, and don't just happen to get the paperwork wrong coincidentally.

  • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @06:37AM (#47235539)

    I think we need an addendum to Godwin's law: Anyone who responds to criticism of a sitting US president by raising the ghost of a prior one automatically loses the argument.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @08:37AM (#47235825)

    The only group that was actually denied was a "liberal" group

    The whole point of the scandal (about which you are clearly uninformed, or about which you are being deliberately disingenuous and deceptive) is that the IRS put applying conservative groups through the ringer specifically to delay their activities through then-upcoming election cycle. They dragged out conservative-sounding applications for months or years through an intimidating, recurring process of illegally asking for information like personal information about group members' lifestyles, the books they read, their personal religious musings, and other complete BS. It wasn't about approving or denying the groups' non-profit status, it was about keeping them in limbo while more quickly approving groups that were more likely to back the administration before the election.

    You really think the word scandal needs quotes around it, because none of that was real or mattered? Or are you dismissive of that illegal treatment because you, like the administration, just don't happen to like the thinking of the fellow citizens that were abused in that way?

  • Re:Yawn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @11:14AM (#47236421) Journal

    Do you really want people like Government bureaucrat deciding what is charitable and what isn't? It's been a long time since i've felt that Most chareties were more the Moral Narcisism at best and "a front for monied self interest, pushing self interest through political propaganda" at worst, but I can't imagine how having a bureaucrat deciding which plutocrat gets a tax break makes anything better.

  • Questions to ask (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RoccamOccam (953524) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @09:06AM (#47240023)
    Sharyl Attkisson (investigative reporter formerly with CBS) has posted some questions [sharylattkisson.com] that should be asked:
    • Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.
    • Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.
    • Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.
    • Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?
    • Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?
    • Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.
    • Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
    • Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
    • I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.

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