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IRS Lost Emails of 6 More Employees Under Investigation 465

Posted by Soulskill
from the conspiracy-theory-activate dept.
phrackthat writes with an update to Friday's news that the IRS cannot locate two years worth of email from Lois Lerner, a central figure in the controversy surrounding the IRS's apparent targeting of Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. Now, the IRS says there are another six workers for whom the agency cannot locate emails. As with Lerner, they attribute the unrecoverable emails to computer crashes. Among them was Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to Lerner’s boss, then-deputy commissioner Steven Miller. Miller later became acting IRS commissioner, but was forced to resign last year after the agency acknowledged that agents had improperly scrutinized tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status. Documents have shown some liberal groups were also flagged. ... Lerner’s computer crashed in the summer of 2011, depriving investigators of many of her prior emails. Flax’s computer crashed in December 2011, Camp and Boustany said. The IRS said Friday that technicians went to great lengths trying to recover data from Lerner’s computer in 2011. In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.
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IRS Lost Emails of 6 More Employees Under Investigation

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  • Massive conspiracy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amightywind (691887) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:29PM (#47259229) Journal
    This is a massive conspiracy. The IRS is hopelessly corrupt. We need a special prosecutor and get people under oath. There needs to be a lot of jail time handed out, starting with the vile Lois Lerner.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:32PM (#47259247)

      If it's not corrupt, then at least massively inept.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:42PM (#47259305)

        ...and just see what happens when YOU tell the IRS you've "lost" your financial records. Better get that ass high up in the air so you can fully enjoy the insertion of the jumbo-sized pineapple decked out in razor blades.

        But the IRS will get completely away with this. It's all theater at that level.

      • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:18PM (#47259587) Homepage Journal
        I would say massively smart. A wider selection of the US public now understand how files, projects and details can be consistently hidden from oversight, FIOA, courts, the press and whistleblowers for generations.
        With small sets of compartmentalized computers and networks, nothing can be found with any form of system wide 'networked' search.
        This keeps projects safe from all US courts, the press with friends on the inside, political parties with friends on the inside, cults, dual citizens helping spies via US front companies or any other group been observed.
        A computer at a desk used by one person without the usual network backups can keep an ongoing project a bit more secure from a cleared network wide search.
        Past events showed too many trusted/political active courts/bad people can do cleared network wide searches without ever been noticed at the time.
        The compartmentalized system as set up is working well, even when detected nothing much is found that seems readable.
        Imagine what every other branch of the mil, contractors and gov can work on in the same way without any outside/gov/court issues :)
        • by pnutjam (523990) <slashdot@@@borowicz...org> on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @10:06AM (#47262311) Homepage Journal
          The blame for this falls squarely on Exchange. It's limit on mailbox sizes forced people to archive to local pst files. This is something that has only been addressed at many organizations over the couple years. They've been planning and testing for about 5 years, but I don't find it difficult to believe that emails could be lost. Decentralized storage of old emails used to be the norm.
          • Yes, entirely Exchange's fault. No one at the IRS has ever heard of backups.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @11:39PM (#47260201)

        Corrupt or inept, either way they should never collect a government paycheck again, ever. Nor a pension check.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @03:49AM (#47260849) Journal

        Hereâ(TM)s how the IRS lost emails from key witness Lois Lerner
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/06/16/heres-how-the-irs-lost-emails-from-key-witness-lois-lerner/ [washingtonpost.com]

        It kept a backup of the records for six months on digital tape, according to a letter sent from the IRS to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). After six months, the IRS would reuse those tapes for newer backups. So when Congressional committees began requesting emails from the agency, its records only went back to late 2012.

        The IRS also had two other policies that complicated things. The first was a limit on how big its employees' email inboxes could be. At the IRS, employees could keep 500 megabytes of data on the email server. If the mailbox got too big, email would need to be deleted or moved to a local folder on the user's computer.

        I don't think that qualifies as "massively inept," only as garden variety ineptness.

        • by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @06:37AM (#47261219) Homepage
          I don't think that qualifies as "lost", either, only "deliberately erased."

          From there, it's simple to see that either six months is as much as was legally required (in which case they followed the law) or it is not (in which case they broke the law).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It would not comply with corporate document preservation laws currently required of public companies. Once again, the government is not bound by the laws it creates. If it's good for the Goose, it SHOULD be good for the gander. One set of laws for the peons, a completely different set of rules for the rulers.

          Time for a change passed a century ago.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:39PM (#47259285)

      > This is a massive conspiracy. The IRS is hopelessly corru

      Beware of confirmation bias. The question we should ask is how many people who are not "under investigation" have also had their emails lost. I bet it is most of them. This just sounds like typical big-organization incompetence.

      Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

      • by hawks5999 (588198) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:55PM (#47259417)
        Any suffieciently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
      • by dcollins117 (1267462) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @11:51PM (#47260253)

        It's quite a coincidence that all seven of the computers storing information that Congress is requesting all "crashed" and the emails were lost to seven computer "glitches". Just think of the odds. What an uncanny streak of misfortune. The emails just vanished and the investigation can't continue. Oh well.

        Just ignore the fact that the words "crashed" and "glitch" are not technical terms an IT professional would use and only serve to obfuscate rather than clarify how those emails might be retrieved. Those boxes with the blinky lights are just subject to the whims of fate, I reckon.

        I can't really fault the IRS for not handing over evidence that would at a minimum would put them out of their jobs and/or ideally behind prison bars. What surprises me is what bad liars they are.

        • by ruir (2709173)
          Arrest them for contempt of the court, as it would happen to any ordinary corporation.
        • They were accidentally hit 47 times with a sledgehammer and then thrown into traffic. Accidentally.

    • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:45PM (#47259333) Homepage

      How does this get -1? I think I would like to hear from people who disagree with this perspective.

      I suspect the word "conspiracy" is the problem. A conspiracy has ALREADY been proven in this case. They already admitted to targeting specific people for additional scutiny and persecution. That is conspiracy. The point now is to find out how far up it goes.

      • by nadaou (535365)

        They already admitted to targeting specific people for
        additional scrutiny and persecution.

        Not really, and there really hasn't been any meaningful persecution.

        Remember that liberal PAC groups were equally tied up in this and
        that 501c3 tax exempt groups are explicitly denied the ability
        to make political endorsements. So the Tea Party PACs do not qualify
        anyway. Also remember that many FOSS applications were also caught up
        in the exact same tightening of the evaluations since they could be
        mistaken for pro-indust

    • We need a special prosecutor and get people under oath.

      Ahh yes the dreaded Oath. Nothing gets lying people to tell the truth more than a verbal agreement to tell the truth backed up by supernatural threats if they dont.

    • by funwithBSD (245349) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:13PM (#47259541)

      How many emails does it take to equal 18 minutes of tape?

      • Given average email size of 75kB, compressible attachments, a 5:1 compression ratio and LTO 6 uncompressed 200MB/s write speed, 18 minutes of tape would be roughly 14.8 million emails.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:17PM (#47259581)

      This is a massive conspiracy. The IRS is hopelessly corrupt. We need a special prosecutor and get people under oath. There needs to be a lot of jail time handed out, starting with the vile Lois Lerner.

      For everyone that wants to jump to protect Obama... keep in mind republicans are likely to win the next election, and they'll have the opportunity to use the IRS in the same way if this doesn't get fixed. I personally think they're all scum.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      In the private sector.... it is industry standard that enterprises ARCHIVE every message that goes in and out of their system. They do this automatically, for security and compliance reasons, and they have retention policies that govern the destruction of e-mail, so they can always answer legal requests made of them.

      It seems like the IRS has ignored standard minimal industry security standards and found a complete end run around records laws, by maintaining a policy that seems to intentionally avoid

      • by plover (150551) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:51PM (#47259769) Homepage Journal

        Some companies have taken this in a different direction. They have a "delete all email after 30 days" policy, with no exceptions, except for legal holds required for gathering evidence in specific legal situations.

        Having and following a policy are the only requirement. It doesn't have to be a rational policy, it just has to be a policy. A policy of timed destruction, even if it's only a month, fits the requirement, and it helps avoid deep legal fishing.

    • by Simulant (528590)

      Having worked in government IT for a bit, I'd say their story is entirely plausible and not entirely unreasonable. How many years of backups should they be required to keep? But hey, don't worry. Congress shall pass laws mandating backups and we will spend millions on tapes to be used once until
      subpoenaed.

      "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence"

      In any case this is some petty, inconsequential, political bullshit we are talking about. Did the extra scrutiny result in a
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:49PM (#47259761)

        Yes it did. Those groups missed out on millions in donations during the 2012 election because they were not given their tax exempt status (Donors were waiting for that before giving because it is to take no more than 90 days according to IRS rules). That was the intention.

        Whats in the emails is member lists of those that did donate being handed to liberal groups, like MoveOn, so they could harrass those individuals, which they have done. The IRS had no legal authroity to collect those lists, and they also had no authority to give thoses lists out to private groups.

        In addition, 10% of people on those lists have been audited by the IRS. Currently the IRS is auditing less than 1% of income tax filiers.

        So to sum up, it restricted freedom of speech, encouraged harrassment based on political views, and used the IRS auditing wing as an attack arm of the adminitration. But since it is people you don't like, its as you say inconseqential political bullshit that doesn't matter.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        How many years of backups should they be required to keep?

        In digital form? They should be required to have a backup of 100% of the years that they have done business, internal or otherwise, via email.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)

      I think it's ok because it's against the nutjob tea baggers. They should just take their freedom elsewhere. This is the USSA!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And throw away the key.

    These are the kinds of people whom solidify in the mind of the protester the need for Violent Radicalization, and in the mind of the Patriot, the need for Terrorism and Civil War. That path invariably ends in sorrow; nearly every revolution and insurrection has resulted in the election of a despot. America is one of the very few historical example of a civil consequence of Revolution, and it's people very much so, despite it's governments best efforts, believe in a higher existence.

    • by fyngyrz (762201)

      America is one of the very few historical example(sic) of a civil consequence of Revolution

      America was .

      FTFY.

      • by Bodhammer (559311)
        Sad, isn't it?
        Oh wait, America needs to be apologized for because we are the "Great Satan". Never mind,
  • by Carnildo (712617) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:45PM (#47259337) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure the NSA has copies. Perhaps someone should request them?

  • Email recipients (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sir-gold (949031) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:49PM (#47259369)

    Can't they subpoena data from everyone else at the IRS who sent or received emails from the employees under investigation?

    By it's very nature, there are always 2 copies of every email, one on the sender's PC and one on the receiver's PC.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:59PM (#47259453)

      . . . unfortunately, the receivers' disk have also crashed.

      It should be pretty obvious to everyone now. The IRS is not going help the investigation. If fact, they are obstructing it.

    • I'm not sure they can do that. I think subpoenas need to have a "target" - you can subpoena Fred Smith for any emails he sent; you can subpoena John Doe for any emails sent, and fill in the correct name when you've been able to determine who it is, but you can't subpoena "anyone who sent emails to this address", because you have no way to serve such a subpoena.

      • They subpoena organizations because the systems are theirs - not the individuals. Hence, the subpoena was directed to the IRS. They also need to be directed to the organizations that Lerner and her flunkies communicated with - the White House, the DOJ & the FEC. Of course, Obama will then assert "executive privilege."
  • Some questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RoccamOccam (953524) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:07PM (#47259495)

    Sorry to repeat myself, but this was a late post to the first incarnation of this story.

    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.
    • by msobkow (48369)

      Good. Someone with a functioning brain cell is asking the right questions.

    • One more:

      How many emails does it take to equal 18 minutes of tape?

    • 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?

      The data was obliterated, not taken. Any personal data is gone, and disclosure implies a scenario that didn't happen. In other words no one would be impacted. Keep in mind that this was a personal laptop and not a server.

  • Coincidence?

    I have this mental picture of lots of computers flying off the roof of a building. Or cars backing over them mysteriously. Something like a Monty Python sketch.

  • Who has the "great length"? Obama, Lerner, Pelosi Reid, Jarrett, Levin. They couldn't get a great length between them combined! I pray for a fatal yeast infection and prostate cancer to strike them all!
  • by Scot Seese (137975) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:16PM (#47259571)

    Senators and Representatives blow like the leaves during elections, but our federal institutions persist. Their executive personnel may turn over, but the organization doesn't.

    You can have as many Senate hearings and bluster on CSPAN as you like, possibly even terminate and reappoint senior level officials, but the organizational mission of the NSA & CIA is skullfuckery, treachery and manipulation, and the IRS exists to refill the wallet of the federal government every way imaginable.

    What will come of this? Well, a probe into data archiving pract Oh look a tornado just wiped out a town out West and one of the Kardashians is pregnant again. Just a sec, gotta look at Reddit on my iPhone. What were you saying?

  • that an email on someone elses computer came from the shown recipient ?
    after all, people could be going to jail, or loosing their pensions: it is not enough to say, hey, lets look at other hard drives; you need forensic chain of evidence.

  • The Congress should provide a list of all IRS employees under suspicion so that the IRS can lose all their emails and documents from the relevant period. Then, the Democrats will declare the investigation closed and we can move to the next scandal. P.S.: I got this plan from Harry Reid, Thanks, Harry!
  • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @10:34PM (#47259957) Homepage

    wow, the IRS thing is awesomely ridiculous. All the people under investigation have had computer crashes that prevent their emails from being delivered to the prosecutors. What are the odds?

    I can see it now...

    Prosecutor: "Give us the emails for Lerner!"
    IRS: "Uh, sorry, computer crashed, lost his data".
    P: "Really? Well, umm...I guess that is possible. How about chief-of-staff Flax? I need his emails too"
    I: "Computer crashed; what a coincidence. We lost his data too."
    P: "Hmm, well I got four more suspects..."
    I: "Yeah, uh, let me see that list. Okay, computer crashed, computer crashed, computer caught fire, exploded, THEN crashed and... oh, you're in luck with the last one!"
    P: "Are you telling me it didn't crash?"
    I: "No, isn't that great? Too bad the computer was accidentally was destroyed in a bizarre pet hippopotamus incident. But don't worry, hippos are now banned from all IRS offices."

  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @10:44PM (#47259987) Homepage

    Yes, the IRS still runs Windows XP [engadget.com]. Their systems are an archaic cluster of crap. Remember, the IRS just collects the money but doesn't get to keep it and spend it on upgrades. Only police departments and judges can do that using forfeiture laws.

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