Lois Lerner’s Hard Drive Crashed, Then Her Hard Drive was Thrown Out, Then the IRS Cancelled its Email Archiving

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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Then a giant dog stuck its head through the window and ate all the servers.

You expect this kind of thing from Enron. You don’t expect it from the IRS. But as it turns out, there isn’t much difference.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cancelled its longtime relationship with an email-storage contractor just weeks after ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s computer crashed and shortly before other IRS officials’ computers allegedly crashed.

Lois Lerner’s computer allegedly crashed in June 2011, just ten days after House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp first wrote a letter asking if the IRS was engaging in targeting of nonprofit groups. Two months later, Sonasoft’s contract ended and the IRS gave its email-archiving contractor the boot.

IRS official and frequent White House visitor Nikole Flax allegedly suffered her own computer crash in December 2011, three months after the IRS ended its relationship with Sonasoft.

Sonasoft was providing “automatic data processing” services for the IRS throughout the January 2009 to April 2011 period in which Lerner sent her missing emails.

But Sonasoft’s six-year business relationship with the IRS came to an abrupt end at the close of fiscal year 2011, as congressional investigators began looking into the IRS conservative targeting scandal and IRS employees’ computers started crashing left and right.

There should have been hard copies of the emails, but then the paper crashed.

The Internal Revenue Service is required by federal law to keep records of all agency emails and to print out hard copies of the emails to make sure they get saved in the event of a computer glitch.

The IRS’s own definition of the Federal Records Act makes clear that emails must be saved and documented, according to an instructional page for employees on the IRS website.

That’s where the giant dog came in. At least the IRS has learned how to thoroughly destroy records. Finally one arm of the government can do something right. Unfortunately it’s the wrong thing.

  • Pete

    If you work for corporate America, you use a laptop or or a desktop.

    - If you travel to another corporate office, your files are still available regardless of whether you brought your computer.

    - If you laptop craps out, corporate information service (IS) gives you an new laptop and lo & behold your files are still there.

    What is the Democrat party saying? Their voters do not know this? Is it because their voters are the people they purposefully keep ignorant on welfare, the dead that vote, or the growing illegal immigrant voter base?

  • SamDuhigiyn321

    My Uncle
    Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
    with a laptop. visit their website F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • Raymond_in_DC

    As a former IT professional in the IRS, I know for a fact that email is maintained on the servers, though users can save messages to their PCs. I know too that the servers – which filled a room when I first visited the site at New Carrolton – are subject to backups.

    But as an IT pro, I was unimpressed by the line of questioning at the most recent Congressional hearings. Some alternative lines of questioning might have gone like this:

    “You claim her hard drive crashed. But isn’t mail accessed from the servers? Did *they* too crash? Did you not build redundancy into the system?”
    “You claim you were able to retrieve Ms. Lerner’s emails, but not those to folks outside the IRS. Aren’t they processed and stored on the same servers? Were anyone else’s emails to outsiders similarly “lost”? Were the losses random, or were they isolated to senders or recipients?
    “Why did you cancel the backup/recovery contract with Sonasoft? Was another company in place to take over that activity at the time of the cancellation? Were the backups maintained by Sonasoft returned to the IRS or were they ordered destroyed?”

    • Habbgun

      Why politicians in congress don’t have access to good advice on questioning is beyond me. With all the people in their constituencies they could find somewhere to turn if they wanted the advice. Do pols take courses in staying ignorant and grandstanding?

      And to see the value of journalism just read a tech column. They know nothing. They are just newsroom guys who didn’t get the petting zoo story because they don’t have a light enough touch.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        Because it’s technical and political. Politics always come first at this level. Which is not acceptable – not this time – and we need to keep pushing them.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      The system requirements (minimum standards) are published and we can all read them. They are required by law to have certain “fail safe” measures according to C2-level security standards, which are fairly comprehensive.

      They’ve broken laws and they’re lying about it thinking that people won’t assemble the information already available to the public that can prove it. I already have enough to prosecute these people. It’s just a questions of filling out the names.

  • TruthBeTold

    I have had two hard drives fail. While I’m not a techie, I have successfully recovered the vast majority of data from each simply by taking the internal hard drive and hooking it up as an external hard drive.

    Unless the hard drive bursts into flames and was left to burn, the vast majority of data is recoverable.

    There a lots of tutorials on youtube.

    Or do an internet search: ‘how to turn an internal hard drive into an external hard drive’.

    This isn’t advanced computer forensics.

    Was no effort made to recover the data before the hard drives were thrown out?

    This is either suspicious or amateurish.

    Stop talking to the managers. Start talking to the IT personnel and see what they were asked or told to do and by whom.

    • Joe Krozac

      Excellent ideas TbT … the questioning needs to begin at the technical level, to determine the exact data processing environment which was in place at the time Ms Lerner ‘lost’ her email messages, and to illuminate for the public (which pays for the IRS and their salaries) what steps were taken preemptively to insure that data was NOT lost as Lerner and her head stooge Koskinen are claiming.

      I recently had a 1 TB hard drive begin acting flaky and Windows was insisting that the drive had to be “checked” but was unable to complete the task, using an old DOS prompt, I was able to move all of the files and directories on that drive on to a NEW drive and lost ZERO data.

      I will be happy to demonstrate how I accomplished this for whatever the current rate is for Beltway Bandit contractors, OR – I’ll do it for free if Congressman Darrell Issa will just contact me.

  • glpage

    The guy that hand’s out the pink slips should cut a wide swath through the IRS. Right after all the idiots involved in this mess are indicted for various violations of federal law.

    Well, that’s what should happen. However, in reality, all those fools will probably get bonuses and raises. If you’re in the government crime does pay.

  • Hard Little Machine

    There are NO email systems in common usage where the totality of contents are stored locally on someone’s own hard drive alone. None. That’s kind of the point of having email in the first place. And Exchange is no slouch in that area. You create a mail and maybe save a local copy – probably. Then it goes to a forwarding server which copies it out to a destination mailbox where it resides until it’s pulled down by the destination. It’s still on a server somewhere even if you scratch it from your local storage. Most email systems actually force you to take some direct action to flush the server side storage. This is why email quotas exist. Not to protect the end user machines but to protect the server storage. If you STOP archiving that doesn’t blow away storage, it simply stops the archiving activity which necessarily means that all the server side drives are left as-is until they totally fill up and the admins have to intervene clean it up.

  • Hard Little Machine

    By the by the IRS is in blatant violation of the Federal government’s own laws on e-discovery and records preservation. If something IS auditable or discoverable then it MUST BE auditable or discoverable.

  • FarleyThree

    You forgot the first part: Lois Lerner took the fifth….

  • objectivefactsmatter

    http://graphics.adaptec.com/us/lvl_raid6_wp.gif

    This is a sketch to explain the logic in how RAID ensures that no single fault (bad disk) will destroy data. If it’s not clear feel free to ask questions.

    Small RAID station:

    http://thedatarescuecenter.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/raid-servers.jpg

    Getting bigger but still relatively small:

    http://www.windowsnetworking.com/img/upl/image0061207563796255.jpg

    And this is a fairly large data center that should be mirrored in another physical or even another geographical area for an organization like the IRS
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-PKYuZRTvacM/ULIwP3QocWI/AAAAAAAAAAM/yOeIVblWWII/s1600/last-byte-raid-recovery-620×350.jpg

    “Lost email” doesn’t happen at the IRS or similar government organizations without malfeasance. Even withotu backup tapes you’d have to have several large explosions before data was ever lost. And we have the technology to recover data even in those cases, though it’s not 100%. It’s rare when a plane crashes and we can’t at some point read the data from those much simpler storage systems. That’s what it takes to destroy data.

    Wait…maybe the email servers were in the WTC…in September of 2001? Does that get us off the hook…because I think that’s what happened…

  • http://www.marketing-projects.biz/ Richard Rivette

    Enough. Time to bring back the gallows, stand them in front while they give testimony and let them know their lives depend on being honest and full disclosure. You’ll get the answers you need.