Federal Judge Takes Extraordinary Steps in IRS Lawsuit
The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.
Per Fox News:
The IRS has submitted several sworn declarations to a federal district court in an attempt to explain the missing emails of former agency official Lois Lerner, as part of a case brought against the agency by [Judicial Watch] a conservative watchdog group.
In the declarations, agency technology officials insisted they did everything they could to fix and recover data from the hard drive of Lerner, who is a central figure in the investigation into the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. However, they said their efforts were fruitless, and some of Lerner’s emails were lost.
These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.
We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.
This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.
Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.
Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. Judge Sullivan issued the following order on Thursday, August 14, in response to the IRS declarations:
In light of… the Declarations filed by the IRS, the IRS is hereby ORDERED to file a sworn Declaration, by an official with the authority to speak under oath for the Agency, by no later than August 22, 2014. In this Declaration, the IRS must: (1) provide information about its efforts, if any, to recover missing Lois Lerner emails from alternate sources (i.e., Blackberry, iPhone, iPad); (2) provide additional information explaining the IRS’s policy of tracking inventory through use of bar code property tags, including whether component parts, such as hard drives, receive a bar code tag when serviced. If individual components do not receive a bar code tag, provide information on how the IRS tracks component parts, such as hard drives, when being serviced; (3) provide information about the IRS’s policy to degauss hard drives, including whether the IRS records whose hard drive is degaussed, either by tracking the employee’s name or the particular machine with which the hard drive was associated; and (4) provide information about the outside vendor who can verify the IRS’s destruction policies concerning hard drives.
Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.
Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.
Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.