IT experts call BS on IRS claim to have lost Lerner emails

The cover-up is always worse than the crime, the conclusion drawn from Watergate, does not seem to have been learned by the IRS or whoever directed it to make the claim late Friday that emails from Lois Lerner to outside agencies (including most notably the White House) were lost in a computer “crash.” That claim is risible according to various experts.

Jason Howerton of The Blaze interviewed veteran IT expert Norman Cillo, “an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and a former program manager at Microsoft,” who laid out six reasons, complete with charts, why he believes Congress is being lied to. Among them:

  1. I believe the government uses Microsoft Exchange for their email servers. They have built-in exchange mail database redundancy. So, unless they did not follow Microsofts recommendations they are telling a falsehood. (snip)
  2. Every IT organization that I know of has hotswappable disk drives. Every server built since 2000 has them. Meaning that if a single disk goes bad it’s easy to replace. (snip)
  3. ALL Servers use some form of RAID technology. The only way that data can be totally lost (Meaning difficult to bring back) is if more than a single disk goes before the first bad disk is replaced….


He notes “All email servers in a professional organization use TAPE backup. Meaning if all the above fails, you can restore the server using the TAPE backups.”

John Hinderaker of Powerline, a litigator with experience in court cases involving demands for complete email records, knows that the IRS MUST have a backup system for recording emails.

 The Agency’s manual on “Managing Electronic Records” has been made public; you can read it here. A few relevant excerpts:  (03-27-2014)

Transfer Media and Formats for Permanent Records

1. The legal requirements for the transfer of permanent records to NARA [the National Archives and Records Administration] are documented in 36 CFR 1235 and set forth in general form in the paragraphs below. Consult the IRS RIM Program Office for more detailed instructions and guidance on the transfer for permanent IRS records.  (06-01-2010)

Magnetic Tape

1. IRS offices may transfer electronic records to NARA on magnetic tape using either open-reel magnetic tape or tape cartridges. Open-reel tape should be on 1/2 inch 9-track tape reels recorded at 1600 or 6250 bytes per inch and blocked no higher than 32,760 bytes per block. Tape cartridges should be 18-track 3480-class cartridges recorded at 37,871 bpi and blocked at no more than 32,760 bytes per block.

Other methods of permanent storage are also approved. What the IRS describes in its manual is a standard document retention system. More:  (06-01-2010)

Security of Electronic Records

1. IRS offices will implement and maintain an effective records security program that incorporates the following:

A. Ensures that only authorized personnel have access to electronic records.
B. Provides for backup and recovery of records to protect against information loss or corruption.
C. Ensures that appropriate agency personnel are trained to safeguard sensitive or classified electronic records.
D. Minimizes the risk of unauthorized alteration or erasure of electronic records.
E. Ensures that electronic records security is included in computer systems security plans prepared pursuant to the Computer Security Act of 1987.

At the direction of a management official as to what is considered a record, the E-mail/Systems Administrators will establish procedures for regular recopying, reformatting, and other necessary maintenance to ensure the retention and usability of electronic records throughout their authorized life cycle.

Hinderaker concludes:

…this is sufficient to demonstrate what was already obvious to those who know anything about standard records management systems: a “crash” of Lois Lerner’s computer would not cause any emails to be “lost.” The Obama administration is lying, and lying in a remarkably transparent way.

He goes on to describe the ways in which data can be recovered from a personal computer disk that has crashed, as well, citing his experience with a data recovery firm that can pull data off a computer that has been sitting at the bottom of a lake.

Now, this case is going to get interesting, when the cover-up starts to get traced back to its origin. This is by definition a conspiracy, since multiple parties had to be involved. Some of them are going to get cold feet. Ace reporter Sharyl Attkisson lays out the questions she would present, and they are enough to make the IRS officials involved start thinking about copping a plea and implicating the higher ups:

 ...these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:

  • Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.
  • Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.
  • Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.
  • Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?
  • Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?
  • Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.
  • Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
  • Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
  • I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.

The claim of lost emails reeks of desperation and seat-of-the pants decision-making. President Obama is known to play his cards very close to his vest, often deciding major issues with the help of Valerie Jarrett, who believes him to be infinitely knowledgable. That sort of hubris is the only possible explanation for making a claim that is so easily disproved by people with expert knowledge.

Follow the hubris.

Hat tip: Weasel Zippers and Clarice Feldman