The IRS scandal involving the disparate treatment by the IRS of certain tax exempt organizations (or their applications for tax exempt status) still has life. The government committees responsible for investigating the IRS “targeting scandal,” as it has come to be known, wanted to see Lois Lerner’s emails, and last week the IRS responded that they are unable to recover her emails, apparently due to the fact that her computer crashed in 2011 and the IRS did not make a practice of preserving all emails on their servers.
Experts find it hard to believe that the IRS lost the files innocently and that they cannot be recovered. From a legal standpoint, it is common knowledge that you don’t delete emails anytime there is a potential for litigation; in fact, you do whatever you can to preserve them. From a tech standpoint, it is difficult to believe that the emails could have simply disappeared, even if the IRS was not conscientiously backing up data at the time. The idea that files are never really 100% gone when you delete them has some truth to it.
From a layperson point of view, it appears that we’re witnessing some sort of cover-up. It just doesn’t pass the “smell test.” I feel like my 10-year-old would be able to sit down at Lerner’s computer and at least find something. But if not, in this day and age, computer geeks are a dime a dozen. Why can’t we just hire the world’s smartest forensic geek at the FBI or CIA and be done with this?
However, as much as the experts and the general public do not believe the emails were lost inadvertently, I have to admit that the facts as we know them do not sound too far fetched to me. From the viewpoint of a tax attorney who deals with the IRS every day, it seems plausible that the IRS really would not save or properly back-up the emails. There’s no way the IRS could possibly save everything. And as for Lerner’s computer crashing, well that kind of thing happens constantly at IRS service centers all around the country. Sometimes when I’m talking with an IRS representative on the phone, I try to imagine the computer their working on and, in my mind, it usually has a 3.5″ floppy disc drive and a behemoth monitor that is twice as deep as it is wide.