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Treasury IG: IRS Never Asked for Backup Tapes of Agency Emails

During congressional testimony Thursday, the Treasury Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus suggested the IRS did not do all it could have to recover Lois Lerner’s missing emails.

Camus told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that while investigating, his team realized the IRS had failed to turn over one relevant document. The IG demanded and got the document in question, which subsequently led to the discovery of an additional 424 backup tapes they had not previously been aware existed at a government data center.

When Camus and his team traveled to West Virginia where the tapes were kept, he discovered something else. According to the IT professionals at the data center, no one from the IRS had ever requested the tapes. Here is a video clip published by the Oversight Committee in which Camus makes this admission to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT):

The existence of these backup tapes seems to be at odds with the explanation given by the IRS last year. In a letter sent to Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch on June 13, 2014 (a Friday), the IRS claimed backup tapes of agency emails were only kept for six months and, after that, were over-written.

For disaster recovery purposes, the IRS does a daily back-up of its email servers. The daily back-up provides a snapshot of the contents of all email boxes as of the date and time of the backup. Prior to May 2013, these backups were retained on tape for six months, and then for cost-efficiency, the backup tapes were released for re-use.

This was the same letter which revealed for the first time (on the last page) that Lois Lerner had a hard drive crash in mid-2011, which meant many of the most relevant emails were unavailable and presumably lost for good.

Now it seems that backup tapes which may contain relevant emails have been sitting in the data center all along but, strangely, no one at the IRS ever requested them. During his testimony, Deputy IG Camus refused to say that the IRS had intentionally withheld the document which led him to the additional tapes. Separately, he did say there is potential criminal wrongdoing still under investigation. He did not say whether that wrongdoing involved an attempted cover-up or something else entirely. The IG’s final report will no doubt clear up any confusion.

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