Lois Lerner: 'We Need to Be Cautious About What We Say in Emails'

Lois Lerner: 'We Need to Be Cautious About What We Say in Emails'

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released emails Wednesday from disgraced former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner wherein she advised her colleagues that “We need to be cautious about what we say in emails” because “we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails.”

Lerner’s full email reads as follows:

I had a question today about OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server]. I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails–so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails. Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable–I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?

The startling email exchange took place on April 9, 2013, between Lerner, IRS technology employee Maria Hooke, and IRS Director for Exempt Organizations Exam Unit Manager Nanette Downing, who was in charge of audits. The email was sent just twelve days after the IRS Inspector General circulated a draft of the targeting audit Lerner eventually leaked at a bar association speech that sparked the ensuing controversy over IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups.

The newly released emails also indicate Lerner was concerned that IRS instant messenger chats might be archived and saved. The IRS technology employee writes her back and states that “OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server] messages are not set to automatically save” but noted that “parties involved in an OCS conversation can copy and save the contents of the conversation to an email or file.” 

Lerner replied, “Perfect.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the Lerner email. He said he had never seen it and was unfamiliar with the OCS system.

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