IRS scandal: the dog wiped their emails, cont’d

I’ve got an update on the fast-developing scandal of evidence destruction at the IRS in my new Cato post (earlier). If not for reading Kim Strassel and her colleagues at the Wall Street Journal, I might not have learned that Lois Lerner’s emails got wiped from her hard drive by forces unknown about 10 days after the letter arrived from House Ways & Means inquiring into targeting of political opponents.

Since the new round of disclosures in the IRS scandal broke a week ago, the WSJ has shown itself willing to dig in a way that many other prestige press institutions have not. “People used to ask how Watergate might have turned out if the press had sided with Nixon instead of against him. Thanks to the work of Strassel and her WSJ colleagues, let’s hope we never find out.”

The Economist covers the story in this commentary. Our tag on evidence spoliation and document retention — lawyers among our readers will be familiar with how very seriously these concepts are taken in the world of litigation — is here.

Welcome readers: Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit.


  • One of the questions about Watergate is why Nixon didn’t just destroy the tapes. Obviously this administration learned from that mistake.

  • How many more computer hard drive failures will it take before the MSM are willing to treat this as a crime? The response from the IRS is so beyond belief that the only conclusion you can draw is that they are confident that, with Eric Holder being the Attorney General, they will never be brought to justice. Ignore for a moment the fact that the email servers are supposed to be backed up and the emails preserved at part of the government mandated records retention. What organization does not back up their employees’ computers every day? Since the IRS claims that the emails were on Lerner’s computer, why were they not able to restore the emails from the backup files?

  • The IRS commissioner testified today that Ms. Lerner’s drive crashed well before the scandal broke.

    First, I would hope that others would join me in asking that email subpoenas be drastically curbed. In most cases an email serves the same purpose as a telephone call. Second, massive discovery is the bane of many corporations and organizations. Fishing trips by moral misfits are despicable. Any missing item is bound to be declared essential as was done in the Lewinsky matter; it turned out that all information in the missing emails was included in other emails with a chain structure.

    And there is no scandal in the first place. Senator Hatch harassed the IRS IG to get something to support a scandal charge. President Obama made a horrible error in trowing good people under the bus to placate fascistic idiots.

  • >”well before the scandal broke” — but when the scandal broke is not the relevant date. According to revelations earlier this week, the data destruction happened about ten days after the letter of inquiry about targeting from Ways and Means Chairman Camp, in other words, after Lerner & Co. had reason to realize this was being investigated.

    >”all information in the missing emails was included in other emails with a chain structure.” That’s not what has been reported up to now. Emails to correspondents outside the agency were reported lost entirely.

  • It is not clear to me that Ms. learner would have gotten the letter or had any idea that she was implicated in the “targeting”. Plus she worked very hard with the IT people to restore the hard drive.

    The White house put in a system during the Clinton administration to automatically capture all emails to satisfy the numerous requests from Congress. It happens that IRS was not set up that way, probably because there are too many employees. But would Ms. learner know that there was no capturing of her emails? And surly there would be redundant copies of her emails in email chains on other people’s computers. Lastly, the congress got thousands of Ms. Lerner’s emails. To take as given that evidence would be confined to just the small sample of her emails is really dumb!

  • I agree, Richard. However, I am a great believer in sauce for the gander. Once the Supreme Court rules that emails require subpoenas, I’ll grant the same privilege to people who are supposed to be working for me.


  • Would the IRS buy such an excuse during an audit?

  • […] caught flat-footed by the re-emergence of the IRS nonprofit targeting scandal (an exception: the Wall Street Journal opinion page). Last Friday it was disclosed that more than two years’ worth of external […]

  • I thought I had read that Russia was going to use typewriters and paper to send sensitive messages after the NSA scandal broke. I guess they don’t know all they would have to do is crash and scrap their hard drives. Voila, no documentation.

  • Of course IRS officials hid/destroyed the emails in question (yawn).

    They will get it away with it because the President & Justice Dept have the practical power/will to protect them. Congress does not have the will to effectively pursue the issue. Corruption is so rampant across the three Federal branches that this specific incidence of merely IRS corruption is trivial. Laws are for the little people.

    Note especially that Congress does NOT have subpoena power, under the U.S. Constitution. Subpoena authority is a “judicial” power only — the Constitution quite clearly states that all judicial power of the United States is vested in one Supreme Court.
    Historically, Congress simply granted itself subpoena-power … in blatant violation of the Constitution. Nobody cares about that — but Lois Lerner is somehow a really big deal. yawn

  • Sort of disappointed with the comments. These emails must exist in the cyberspace, if not on LL’s computer, on the computers of the various recipients. If the NSA truly is a spy agency that is claimed, I suspect they have the email address of both the sender and the recipient, if not the actual content of the email . Can the NSA be dragged in to this? Why not? The executive branch authorized military assistance at Waco and Ruby Ridge. Surely, the IRS Targeting Scandal rises, if even partially true, to a greater threat to our democracy than a couple of fringe groups in rural areas. Obama of course wants to get to the bottom of this.

  • So, are they really attempting to state that the IRS uses Outlook Express or some other rinky-dink program for their email system.

    Let’s think about this. What large employer doesn’t use a server based email system? It doesn’t matter what happened to the drive on her computer, the data resides on the servers. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the entirety of her working data were on the server.

  • Rick,
    This should be an entry level test for somebody who wants to work for the NSA.

  • […] the IRS’s account of what has happened. While we covered the story a year ago as well as more recently, this might make a good time to recapitulate […]