As America’s attention is diverted to foreign affairs and plane crashes, the tale of IRS boss Lois Lerner’s purportedly “missing” emails is still evolving. Now, new testimony seems to show that these “missing” emails may be backed up, a development that contradicts what the IRS said only a month ago.
In an interview given to congressional investigators on Thursday, July 17, IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane’s testimony cast doubt on previous claims that the emails are lost. Kane, who supervises the IRS’s targeting scandal document production to Congress, noted that he was now uncertain whether the back-up tapes with the emails were actually recycled.
During the testimony, Kane was asked to confirm if the emails and hard drives were gone, but he refused to say so.
“There is an issue as to whether or not there is a — that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the six month retention schedule. I don’t know whether they are or they aren’t, but it’s an issue that’s being looked at,” he said.
This is at odds with claims from the IRS that the tapes no longer exist and that Lois Lerner’s emails were permanently erased.
Kane also testified that up to 20 other IRS employees who just happened to have dealings with Lerner also may have had their emails “accidentally” destroyed in hard drive crashes and subsequent recycling of the hardware.
Among those whose emails may also have mysteriously vanished are Justin Lowe, Technical Advisor to the Commissioner of Tax-Exempt and Government Entities, David Fish, Manager of EO Guidance and advisor to Lois Lerner, Andy Megosh, Group manager in EO Guidance, and Kimberly Kitchens, an IRS revenue agent in Cincinnati.
The whole story seems quite fantastic to many IT workers across the nation. A recent article at the Washington Post asked a series of questions of the IRS, questions that reveal incredulity over the IRS’ claim that the emails are forever lost.
Dozens of questions still persist over the claims from the IRS that these important documents are lost. The answers are key to any trust in the Obama administration especially where it concerns an agency that forces everyone else to have decades of documents ready at hand at any given moment.
Transcript of Kane’s testimony
Q1- And the white paper that you identified, that you called a white paper in Exhibit 3, you said that you had an opportunity to review that before it was produced. Is that accurate?
Q1- And to the best of your knowledge, was that document an accurate representation of the information within it?
A- At that time, that was certainly accurate.
Q1- And if you had had any concerns about the accuracy of that document, would you have raised them?
Q1- And did you raise any concerns about the accuracy of that document?
A- As I indicated earlier, I had some issues that are suggested edits that I thought needed to be made, and there was a discussion about those, and there were some changes made. They weren’t major, but, you know, I was accommodated.
Q1- So the end product was accurate?
A- That was the state of knowledge and facts as we knew it when the document was set up.
Q1- Thank you very much. I really appreciate the many hours you’ve spent with us.
Q2- Sir, if I could just ask you one clarifying question based on your answers to those questions. You stated at the time that document was produced to Congress, the document, the white paper in Exhibit 3, that it was accurate to the best of your knowledge. Is it still accurate?
A- There is an issue as to whether or not there is a — that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the 6-month retention schedule.
Q2- So some of those backup tapes may still exist?
A- I don’t know whether they are or they aren’t, but it’s an issue that’s being looked at.
Q2- By who?
A- It’s part of the TIGTA investigation.
Q2- So no one in the IRS, to your knowledge, outside of TIGTA, is looking at that issue?
A- The IRS is not looking at anything being investigated by TIGTA.
Q2- And when was that issue identified?
A- Sometime after the white paper was sent up.
Q2- And has there been any discussion about disclosing that issue to Congress, to the best of your knowledge?A- I don’t know whether it has or it hasn’t been. I thought Chairman Issa asked a question about it at the last hearing, but I could be wrong about that.
Q2- The hearing with Commissioner Koskinen?
Q2- And did the Commissioner give an accurate response to that question?
A- I forget how the question was framed, but I thought I had a recollection that Chairman Issa had asked the Commissioner about a backup tape issue looking — being looked at by TIGTA. That’s the context of my recollection.
Q2- Anything else that you’re aware of that you can tell us about about the issue of the potential availability of a backup tape?
Kane’s Counsel – Objection to form.
A- Again, it’s all under investigation by TIGTA at this point in time. And I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t. I know that there’s an issue out there about it.
Q2- Okay. Thank you, sir.
(Q1= Committee investigator #1; Q2= Committee investigator #2; A= Kane)
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter (@warnerthuston) or email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org