The emails sent by ex-IRS official Lois Lerner that may have provided crucial details about the tax agency’s targeting of conservative groups could be lost forever after her “crashed” hard drive was “recycled,” several sources told Politico on Wednesday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told the publication that lawmakers were “informed that the hard drive has been thrown away.” Other anonymous sources also reportedly confirmed the development.
After promising in May to produce Lerner’s vital emails sent to and from other IRS employees from early 2009 to April 2011, officials claimed on Friday that Lerner’s computer had “crashed” in the summer of 2011 and they were unable to find many of the relevant emails. The timeframe is key as the targeting of tea party and conservative groups began in spring of 2010.
In this May 22, 2013, file photo, then-IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the House Oversight Committee hearing to investigate the extra scrutiny IRS gave to tea party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. The House is preparing to vote May 7, on holding Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at a pair of committee hearings about her role in the agency's tea party controversy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
The IRS argues they enlisted IT professionals to restore Lerner’s hard drive, but they were unsuccessful. It is unclear why the IRS would agree to produce the emails if they were aware of the computer “crash” that occurred years earlier.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) recently subpoenaed her damaged hard drive as well as any “external drives, thumb drives and computers” and “all electronic communication devices the IRS issued to Lois G. Lerner.
The IRS is claiming officials followed “standard” protocol when they disposed of Lerner’s “broken hard drive.”
Several IT professionals have weighed in on the controversy, arguing that emails are usually not lost forever in the event of a hard drive crash.
Norman Cillo, an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and a former Microsoft program manager, recently told TheBlaze that it’s possible the IRS is telling the truth about Lerner’s emails if the federal agency is “totally mismanaged and has the worst IT department ever.”
“I don’t know of any email administrator that doesn’t have at least three ways of getting that mail back,” he explained. “It’s either on the disks or it’s on a TAPE backup someplace or in an archive server. There are at least three ways the government can get those emails.”
Cillo provided a total of six reasons why he believes it is highly unlikely a computer crash would permanently remove all traces of Lerner’s emails, all of which can be viewed here.
So far, the IRS has obtained roughly 24,000 of Lerner's emails sent to IRS employees by retrieving them from the accounts of other agents who received, sent or were copied on the correspondence.
IRS chief John Koskinen is set to be grilled by frustrated Republicans at a hearing on Friday.