Lois's Hard Drive: Procuring the Procurement Records

During the past few days, a new line of inquiry regarding Lois Lerner's "missing" e-mails has emerged in The American Thinker.  On 20 June 2014, Richard Kantro noted the irony of how the very government that has every aspect of everyone's medical insurance data cannot account for its own people's e-mails.

The next day, William A. Routt gave a refresher in the technicalities of the e-mail transmission process, concluding that even if Lois's e-mails actually did in fact go down with the hard drive on her computer, they still exist on the servers through which they passed.  Also on 21 June 2014, Thomas Lifson reported that the IRS had entered into an e-mail archiving contract with Sonasoft.

On 22 June 2014, Lifson followed up with the news that the IRS had terminated the Sonasoft contract just a few weeks after the alleged crash of Lois's computer.

This all strongly suggests a fertile field of data that Ways & Means might explore. When I was issued a portable computer by the IRS ("portable" by the standards of the late 1980's), I had to sign a custody card with the computer's serial number on it.  Surely the government-issued  computer used by Lois Lerner was similarly accounted for (at least it should have been).  The seller and manufacturer of Lois's ill-fated computer should therefore be ascertainable.

Whenever money changes hands, information also changes hands.  This maxim is the dynamic behind the basic IRS audit, and can also be the dynamic of the Ways & Means Committee's ongoing investigation of the IRS.  It must be remembered that the thousands of computers at the desks of the IRS bureaucrats were not created ex nihilo, but were procured from the computer marketplace.  The exchange of money for those computers was accompanied by an exchange of information.

In his prepared testimony at the 20 June 2014 Ways & Means hearing, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen mentioned that "the IRS has yet to complete moving all employee computers from Windows XP, which is no longer generally supported by Microsoft, to Windows 7."  There certainly should be plenty of procurement activity information out there.

Moreover, the Federal Acquisitions Regulation generally requires contractors to retain records for at least three years after the final payment.  This means that Sonasoft should still have the records.

When the taxpayer fails to keep adequate records, the IRS has long been upheld in reconstructing income and expenditures from indirect sources.  If the IRS's records are too inadequate to locate the missing e-mails in its own shop, there is much information in filing cabinets and on the hard drives and back-up tapes of the private sector.  Perhaps the Congressional staffers can "reconstruct" the e-mails through some inquiries to private sector contractors.  Perhaps the private sector may have corroborating information, if not smoking gun documents, regarding other aspects of IRS abuses as well.

Kenneth H. Ryesky is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College of the City University of New York.  He formerly served as an attorney for the IRS, and, prior to that, as a contracting officer and procurement analyst for the Department of Defense.