Lois Lerner Hard Drive Damaged by ‘Impact’; Inept Workers Blamed for Deleting Data

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

While everyone was busy with funeral arrangements for our constitutional republic at the Supreme Court, a long-running story of government abuse and corruption ground along at the House Oversight Committee, where increasingly ridiculous stories are peddled by IRS bureaucrats to explain how every layer of federal data security failed in the mysterious disappearance of scandal kingpin Lois Lerner’s emails.

“Investigators are blaming two IRS workers at a computer center in West Virginia for erasing thousands of emails related to the tax agency’s tea party scandal, impeding congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative political groups,” reports the Associated Press. “The workers might be incompetent, a lead investigator said Thursday, but there is no evidence they were part of a criminal conspiracy to destroy evidence.”

Oh, if only there had been three stooges responsible for destroying all that subpoenaed evidence. Think of the GIFs we could make.

Somehow this comedy duo at the IRS center in West Virginia managed to erase 422 backup tapes by accident, destroying 24,000 emails, months after congressional investigators demanded them, ignoring repeated alerts over the course of a year from IRS brass that all such records must be saved.

Of course, we don’t get to know who they were, or whether they’re still out there flaunting federal policies, agency directives, and congressional instructions while collecting paychecks from the taxpayers. As with the OPM data breach catastrophe, it’s nobody’s fault, or everyone’s fault, take your pick.

It was a “clear breakdown of communication  in one part of the organization,” according to a statement from the IRS. Darn, now we may never know what really happened in the worst politicized abuse of IRS power in history! Curse the luck!

“It just defies any sense of logic,” said House Oversight chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). “It gets to the point where it truly gets to be unbelievable. Somebody has to be held accountable.” Good luck with that, Rep. Chaffetz!

As for how the winsome Ms. Lerner’s hard drive went on the fritz in the first place, we were previously told that some kind of one-in-a-billion string of freak computer crashes mysteriously took out the drives of Lerner and several of her associates, leading to theories that Lerner might be some sort of super-being, a mutant who generates an electromagnetic field that crashes the nearly crash-proof computer equipment enjoyed by the citizens of the Twenty-First Century – kind of like Magneto but less cool, and with an unhealthy fixation on the Tea Party.

The truth turns out to be rather more prosaic, according to testimony from Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Timothy P. Camus before House Oversight on Thursday:

On Monday, June 13, 2011, Ms. Lerner reported that she found her computer inoperable when she entered her office, and the malfunction was reported to the IRS Information Technology (IT) staff. The assigned IT specialist determined the hard drive had crashed, and following standard protocol, he placed a new hard drive in Ms. Lerner’s laptop. In addition to the hard drive, a Hewlett Packard (HP) contractor replaced the laptop’s keyboard, track pad, heat sink, and fan.

When interviewed, both the IRS IT technician and the HP technician reported that they did not note any visible damage to the laptop computer itself. When asked about the possible cause of the hard drive failure, the HP technician opined that heat-related failures are not seen often, and based on the information provided to him, the hard drive more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort. However, because the HP technician did not examine the hard drive as part of his work on the laptop, it could not be determined why it crashed.

On July 19, 2011, Ms. Lerner requested IRS IT to attempt to recover data from her crashed hard drive because, according to her, she had “personal information” on the drive. The IRS IT management agreed and requested assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI). After receiving the hard drive from the IT technician, the IRS-CI technician attempted, but was unsuccessful in recovering data, so he returned the hard drive to the IT depot at the IRS headquarters building for its ultimate destruction.

According to the IRS-CI technician, he noted some scoring on the top platter of the drive, and he believed there were additional steps that could have been taken to attempt to recover data. IRS IT management determined the extra effort to recover data from Ms. Lerner’s hard drive was not worth the expense. It is critically important to point out that we determined the IRS does not track individual hard drives by their serial number(s), nor was the serial number recorded by the IT technician or the IRS-CI technician when they handled and examined Ms. Lerner’s hard drive.

As we already knew, the supposedly unrecoverable hard drive ended up getting shredded into quarter-sized pieces, just in case someone who could recover its data got any funny ideas about doing so.

This titan government is very interested in examining your electronic activity, and the IRS won’t be taking any excuses about your hard drive suffering a mysterious “impact” that leaves “scoring on the top platter” when it demands your documents. But it’s incredibly lax at every level about managing its own information and holding its own employees accountable, which causes big problems when Chinese hackers come knocking, but can prove very convenient when it’s Congress at the door.