That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.

| June 20, 2014 | 67 Comments

I know Hondo has been riding herd on this IRS email thing, but I just had to weigh in on it with nothing new to say. I’m just so frustrated listening to this BS, I have to say something.

At my last job, a government job, I had a laptop and a desktop assigned to me. I could access my email on the mail server (later on the “cloud” whatever that is) from either computer. I could access it from my own personal laptop, too, if I was waiting for something important. My government laptop crashed once, and when I got a new laptop, all of the mail on the mail server that was there before the crash was still there. It was like that for the whole 15 years that I worked for the National Archives (I also had email on the Government Printing Office’s network – it worked the exact same way). When we swapped out for new computers last year, the email on the NARA and GPO servers was still accessible from the new laptops.

Now I read in the news that the IRS Commissioner is mouthing the same empty excuses;

[Commissioner John] Koskinen is telling lawmakers that a hard drive belonging to former IRS executive Lois Lerner was recycled and presumably destroyed after unsuccessful efforts to recover information on it. He says the inspector general is investigating that.

A week ago, the IRS acknowledged it could not produce some of Lerner’s emails because her computer crashed in 2011.

Email is stored on a server, not on the laptop hard drive. I’ll bet if the IRS subpoenaed Yahoo! for all of my email, Yahoo! could produce it from their email servers. Only a moron could be fooled by that excuse because;

Category: WTF?

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Comments (67)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Green Thumb says:

    Sounds like the All-Points Logistics excuse machine.

  2. cato says:

    Not a smidgen of corruption.
    But a train load of lies, deceit and deception.
    The US is unrecognizable to me.

    It looks as though the fundemental transformation is nearly complete.

  3. Delilah T. says:

    You have to ask why Lerner invoked the 5th amendment (bars self-incrimination) nine times when she was being questioned, don’t you? What the h-e-double hocky stix is she hiding, and afraid of being found out for doing?

    But don’tcha just love fusterclucks when it’s the OTHER guy that does them?

    http://news.msn.com/us/congress-probes-how-irs-emails-could-go-missing

    My response to the IRS commissioner is ‘Hogwash, you gasbag! Hogwash! My e-mails go back 10 years. They’re on the internet, you moron. Anything sent anywhere on a digital stream is still sitting ini that stream as binary codes, waiting to be recalled. Hogwash!!!!’

    This just gets better and better all the time. Hondo was right: this really does make Nixon’s escapades look like a tempest in a teapot. I’ll bet Tricky Dick is laughing up his sleeve now.

  4. SJ says:

    The post by Jonn is very racist and threatening to a gent who lives out west. /s

  5. rb325th says:

    Just the other day I was asked to clean up my e-mail folder on the server, as it was reaching its maximim capacity. Seems 3 years worth of e-mails ads up to a lot.
    Anyhow, I am a lowly federal employee, who has never stored e-mails locally on my hard drive and in the past 2.5 years have had 3 drive crashes and no lost e-mails. I have also switched workstations and low and behold there were my e-mails righ there when I signed into outlook…
    WTF Kind of IT Department is the IRS Using? Are Moe, Larry and Curly working there? I don’t think so.
    I knew how this workd back in 95 or so, when I was taking course at BU for Computer Networks.

  6. Richard says:

    Yes. It is all true.

    If you delete an email from your computer, the email is not deleted from the server, it is just not displayed. The email continues to exist in the email database on the email server.

    Even more interesting. Emails are government records and there is a law that government records have to be preserved in a Record Retention System more or less forever. A tape backup does not meet the retention standard; there is a higher standard. If a reliable location/format is not available, they have to print off all of the emails and keep the paper.

    So, emails are stored on a server. That server is backed up. Not backing up the email server is inconceivable — really — and those backups should be retained for several years for operational needs — for example, my server blew up and I have to rebuild it.

    Again, since emails are government records, the emails have to be preserved in a Records Retention system — more or less forever — separate from the backups. Failure to preserve those emails in a Record Retention system seriously violates federal laws.

    If the IRS used a hard drive as a backup media, in my experience that would be unique. I have been in the IT business for 45 years and this is the first time I ever heard of an enterprise or government unit using a hard drive for backup or record retention. Hard drives are simply too delicate and depend on hardware that may not be available any more — like IDE plugs to motherboards.

    For these reasons, I do not believe that those emails are gone. I believe that the IRS is stonewalling congress and the public with these silly stories about hard drives because only the IT community know how this stuff works and no one is asking us.

    Give an person with technical knowledge the power to subpoena records and the ability to compel via court order, allow the court to find someone in contempt and put them in jail, those records will be found. Or somebody will go to jail for destroying the records.

    • LC says:

      “If you delete an email from your computer, the email is not deleted from the server,…”

      This isn’t necessarily true – and please note I’m not defending boneheaded IRS IT policies or the very real possibility that people are lying through their teeth, but many email clients use either IMAP or POP to access accounts. POP, often by default, literally grabs emails from a server, downloads them to a client,… then deletes them off the server. You CAN of course have it keep them on a server, but plenty of POP clients don’t by default.

      With everything else you say, I’m in complete agreement. And, for that matter, it should be pretty trivial to check whether her client used POP via server logs, which should also be kept.

      • OldSoldier54 says:

        “LC” – Liberal Civie? …

        Anyway, “This isn’t necessarily true …” I would agree is accurate on the face of it, except for the whole government records thing.

        It being illegal and all …

        As has been noted here already, this has all the appearance of an ongoing criminal conspiracy, by people who LOVE to obfuscate everything via lawfare. YMMV

        • LC says:

          Yes on LC, OldSoldier. I bounce around here and B5 from time to time.

          And while I’m not yet convinced there’s a conspiracy at play here, I’d fully support a special federal prosecutor solely based on the fact that Koskinen said it’d be a waste of taxpayer money. The government -and the IRS specifically- is suddenly worrying about wasting taxpayer’s money? THAT is suspicious to me!

          As for the government records thing – again, complete agreement with both you and Richard above. It seems the IT policies at the IRS weren’t adhering to that law at the time, though (more likely through oversight or incompetence, not malice), so while it’s definitely wrong and needs changing, it isn’t necessarily part of a conspiracy. Bad IT policies in government organizations are unfortunately the rule, not the exception.

          • OldSoldier54 says:

            “And while I’m not yet convinced there’s a conspiracy at play here, I’d fully support a special federal prosecutor solely based on the fact that Koskinen said it’d be a waste of taxpayer money. The government -and the IRS specifically- is suddenly worrying about wasting taxpayer’s money? THAT is suspicious to me!”

            Good point. I’m not 100% on the Conspiracy angle BUT, Lerner’s and six other person’s of interest in this scandal, emails, all coming up with computer crashes/tapes overwritten,etc, just doesn’t pass the smell test.

            Any suggestions wrt a man or woman of storied integrity to be the Special Prosecutor?

            • LC says:

              I admit I haven’t followed this too closely, so feel free to fill in the details for me, but for me six people losing hard drives or data sounds suspicious at first, but I’d want it in context to be sure. Six people out of how many? If we’re talking out of the entirety of the IRS (100K people), that’s not actually that surprising. If it’s six laptops that failed all from the same vendor with the same version numbers, it could also be coincidence due to bad hardware bins. If it’s six people out of tens, with different hardware, no history of problems like this in the past, and suddenly a lot of things just stop working… well, hell, you’re damn right that doesn’t pass a smell test. But I want to understand the full situation first.

              As for a special prosecutor, I don’t have anyone particular in mind – just give me a) someone with technical skills so they know when they’re being bullshitted and can demand the right things, and b) preferably someone who leans Republican but won’t make a dog and pony show of this. I want the facts, and I feel if nothing wrong was done, that’ll stand up to a vigorous investigation. If something wrong was done, I want people held responsible. Not appointing someone who’ll be slightly antagonistic (legally speaking, not politically speaking) is the only way to ensure this is done right.

              • LC says:

                Typed too fast in the end and slipped an extra ‘not’ in there — Appointing someone legally aggressive is what I want.

  7. royh says:

    Where I work, email is stored on the exchange server unless it is moved to a .pst file. The .pst files are not on the exchange server but they are on a local server that is backed up nightly. If a file is inadvertantly deleted we can restore a version that is up to 4 weeks old. The IRS has no backups?

    • Green Thumb says:

      Word.

    • LC says:

      It seems their backup policy (before 2013) was designed to recover from failures, not store for archival / investigative / historical reasons.

      I don’t currently know enough about the time-line here, but it’s actually fairly reasonable that they can’t access backups from 2011 right now, in 2014, for someone who is still actively employed. I’ve worked for places where accessing files from people who worked there twenty years ago is possible, but only the latest state of their files. Tracking all state-changes, so nothing is ever really deleted, takes lots of storage space.

  8. RunPatRun says:

    Even if she stored email on a local folder and the hard drive is gone, those emails are on the server and/or another PC. They went to her address from someone, or are from her address to another. They exist – unless electronic shredding took place.

    • CommonSense says:

      The problem is that the emails in question went to places like the White House and the DOJ. Carney already said that the White House investigated and only found 3 emails, 2 of which were spam (yeah, right). Beyond that, they will just claim executive privilege to prevent handing them over.

  9. AW1Ed says:

    I’m DOD (NAVAIR) and when on travel it’s routine that I check my work e-mail on my personal laptop- plug in the CAC reader, go to Outlook Web Access and presto! Work e-mail anywhere on the planet that has internet connectivity. And it’s not my work computer I’m accessing, it’s the NMCI web mail server.
    This “The dog ate my e-mail.” from the IRS doesn’t even pass the snicker test.

    • CWORet says:

      Now, if NMCI was responsible for the IRS email, I could believe that it would be lost…

    • Reaperman says:

      It would be very silly to hold NMCI up as proper mail handling, or at all in line with what was put in the blog post–actually it was the exact service I was thinking about when I posted my ‘yeah it’s probably just really gone’ post below.

      Over on USMC side we’re taking over a lot of NMCI messes (rebranded ‘mcen-n’ now). Terrible stuff.

      • AW1Ed says:

        Not holding NMCI up at all- I’ve hated it for years. The point is e-mail is not resident on the individual’s computer hard drive, but a remote server.

        • Reaperman says:

          On nmci (MCEN-N), I have 80mb of space for my most important emails, as well as my most recent. The rest (like most nmci users) are on a PST. Sadly, also like most nmci users, my pst isn’t on my H: drive since outlook will complain constantly the day H is down. I am responsible enough to periodically copy my PST over to H, however. (thanks for reminding me). For some fun, maybe give NMCI a call and ask them to restore an email you deleted out of your mailbox back in 2011. I’d be hugely surprised if it worked–actually I’ve become somewhat tempted to do that one myself.

          I think that given this ‘unique’ situation, the local lawyers probably should have stepped in and made sure extra copies of that person’s email would still be around, but for normal peons (for example me) I highly doubt there’s any more than a year of email backup, and it’s probably so much work to get at, I bet I couldn’t properly motivate a recovery of even that much.

          • AW1Ed says:

            I’m hugely surprised every Monday when my NMCI desktop boots to life and I can actually get to work. The real pain begins when I have to interface with Boeing’s IDE…

    • ExHack says:

      Ee-yup.

      Lois probably accessed and stored email on her good ol’ G-BlackBerry, too. Where’s THAT device and its drive?

  10. David says:

    With RAID, especially the more sophisticated RAID, it is almost inconceivable that anyone could believe their cock-and-bull excuse, much less “the dog ate my tape”.

    Nice ad reference, by the way.

  11. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    As Delilah T pointed out, Lerner took the 5th. She did so on two different occasions on the Hill. DOJ has been investigating her for over a year and I wonder how it was they were not all over the email server issue–or were they? Confidence is not high and they will go after her in earnest only if it appears they need to do so for political, not justice, purposes.

    • Delilah T. says:

      Like I said yesterday, I’ve had my computer since 2004. I’ve had e-mail at home for 10 years now. I’ve used e-mail service since 1997, when it became available at work.

      Anything I sent myself from work after I got my computer at home is still there.

      Even if I deleted it, I can run a recover program and recall it to existence.

      Any e-mail I got and deleted, including junk mail, can be recovered if I really really want it. And who wants all that junk mail, anyway?

      This entire story is pure, unadulterated, bald-faced lying and nothnig else. The fish always stinks from the head, and you know which head I’m talking about. No, not the IOO, the one behind the curtain.

  12. FatCircles0311 says:

    This shit makes Watergate look like child’s play.

    Maybe we’ll get some answers in 20+ years. I wouldn’t hold my breath though…

  13. Reaperman says:

    I haven’t fully been paying attention to the story, but have the gist. Emails were lost at a suspicious moment. I’ve been hearing a lot of email silliness too. Generally, we come from a military background so perhaps we should consider the possibility that all government email is treated as poorly as military email.

    It’s not unusual for people to pull their mail off server and dump it into pst’s. Most users aren’t really aware what they’re doing as they create their pst on a local drive with no backup, but they’re usually doing it because of some stupid double-digit organizational limit on mailbox size left over from 1995.

    Yes, it’s good for an organization to keep a copy of all incoming/outbound email squirreled away far from the user level, but I’d guess that happens a lot less often than just keeping a few backups of mailbox contents around for a while. A lot the time, the responsibility is put on individual users to determine which emails rise to the level of ‘records,’ to be put into special record management software. Thing is that most users don’t know about their responsibility in that area.

    Sure it’s convenient that the email is gone, but I’m not so quick to paint an email ‘ideal’ as ‘government reality.’

  14. Laurie says:

    Anyone with even a small amount of computer knowledge knows this. I would say it could even be considered “common knowledge”. Which is what is so enraging about all of this, they think we are all complete idiots. Nobody buys this.

  15. Adirondack Patriot says:

    If the IRS audits any of you for failing to file in 2012, 2013 or 2014, simply tell them that you e-mailed your returns directly to Lois Lerner.

  16. Sparks says:

    Every DBA and IT Admin guy in the country is saying, “WTF!!!” It is all BS. From top to bottom.

    • Reaperman says:

      Not me though. This was 2011, it’s 2014 now–who keeps backups of people’s spam around for that long? A year, sure, but 3?

      What I do think is highly odd and hard to believe is that whatever legal counsel was there didn’t pick up the phone to the IT shop and make extra-special-sure that there was an extra-special-copy of everything into and out of one person’s box (this isn’t terribly uncommon) because that person is due for a lot of current/future legal attention.

  17. ohio says:

    After I retired (USA) was a township police chief. Some thought that car to car chat and messages on the MDT’s disappeared when you logged off. So, about twice a year I had to place a memo in the read and sign book reminding everyone that the “chat” and messages on the MDT’s were stored on a server. (Remember LAPD)?

  18. Jonn Lilyea says:

    I think we can all agree that when her computer crashed, it had jack to do with the missing emails.

  19. GDContractor says:

    This is the best I have read about the issue to date, other than here at TAH.
    http://hotair.com/archives/2014/06/20/irs-commissioner-you-know-e-mail-isnt-really-an-official-record/

    They cover the legal requirement to retain records, the failure to do so, tape drives, hard copies, etc. The IRS can blow me.

  20. CB Senior says:

    This excuse opens her up to not following Government mandated Records keeping. Which is also now a yearly mandatory training requirement for every Gov’t employee.

  21. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Apparently the IRS has its’ own email back up system and only keeps 6 months worth of emails….how does that work?

    I can’t show up for an audit and say I only keep 6 months worth of supporting data but I have the rest of my numbers from 7 years ago…

    What a pants load this mess is turning into.

    • Sparks says:

      VOV…The report is they used tape backups which were erased every six months. I haven’t heard of tape backups being replied on in decades. Considering the huge amount the IRS spent on their system upgrades not too long ago, I find it hard to believe they were still use tapes for backups of emails. Which I bet my mortgage, are server based backup systems like every other modern system in the government. But, what do I know?

      • LC says:

        Tape backups are still pretty common, as they are often cost/space/power/personnel efficient over live-disk backups, but there’s a big difference between ‘backups’ for disaster recovery (most places do this) and ‘backups’ for archival purposes (most places don’t).

        The tape drive backup system kept things for six months, which is clearly insufficient as a government-records archival system, and tends to be considerably longer than most disaster-recovery backups. Those are designed for recovering from system failures, buildings going ‘poof’, etc.

        Whoever designed their IT plan (before 2013, where it changed) either was aiming to protect against very short-term investigations, probably internal ones, and disaster recovery, but not archival / long-term investigations.

        • GDContractor says:

          Let’s say you had a shit ton of ’60s era mainframes programmed to execute your business plan. Let’s say your business plan involved collecting trillions of dollars from a bunch of unwilling chumps. Let say that (other than the occasional 600 fraudulent refunds sent to 1 address in Lithuania) the mainframes, tape drives, and the software do an pretty adequate job of collecting the trillions of dollars from the chumps. Lets say that as long as the money rolls in from the chumps, you get pay, benefits, and bonuses.
          QUESTION: Would you be willing to upgrade your IT architecture?

          • OWB says:

            Point taken. So, what happened with the $$ billions given to the IRS to upgrade their equipment?

          • blinduser says:

            That’s the deal…they get their pay regardless of how bad the screw the taxpayer…the government always gets their pay and bennies no matter what…they lie to us constantly and their money keeps flowing in from us…we lost actual control of them long ago…might as well not get gray hairs outta it…who is going to stop them? Are you?….I can’t… Who can?

  22. 68W58 says:

    As I said over in Hondo’s thread-if anyone remembers the documents from the National Archives that took a walk in Sandy Berger’s pants, please know that he pled to a misdemeanor, paid a fine and lost his clearance for three years-that’s it. The Dems are running an old playbook and they know the media has their back.

  23. Delilah T. says:

    I did like the ‘Nixonian cover-up’ reference.

    Do I smell obstruction of justice in all of this?

  24. Smaj says:

    Is there not ONE honorable person with access to these damning e-mails who will come forward? This is far more frustrating than watching this lying shitweasel Koskinen give congress the big “FU”.

  25. Poetrooper says:

    Actually there is a bit of silver lining in this cloud of obstruction because it demonstrates that they are truly desperate to protect the White House. Otherwise, why even try such an easily-disprovable dodge? IT folks everywhere, just like here at TAH, are calling this dog-ate-my-homework excuse as pure unadulterated bullshit, so there’s no way House investigators are going to accept this. Even all those liberal IT folks out there can see that their beloved Obama is lying on a major scale.

    As Delilah says, there’s a strong smell of obstruction of justice coming from this. I’m betting that just as with the premature and disastrous Obamacare release, some purely political players in the administration with no IT knowledge called this move over the objections of IRS IT administrators who knew damned well that it wouldn’t fly. It’s yet one more example of the Keystone Kops mentality and modus operandi of this this totally screwed-up but totally political administration.

    • Delilah T. says:

      Poetrooper, I’ll return to that question I asked.

      What on earth is Lerner afraid of that would have her invoking the 5th Amendment 9 times?

      I won’t even go with the use of conspiracy as an incentive. This stinks badly of something worse than that. She’s petrified, and the fear is flowing out of her pores like sweat from squads on patrol in the jungles of Vietnam.

      • OWB says:

        Don’t really think that she is afraid of anything except perhaps failing to complete her mission. Unfortunately for us, she successfully bought months more time for all the little sycophants to scrub every possible place those elusive emails might have landed.

        Was she angry? You betcha.

  26. Just an Old Dog says:

    Not to worry, NSA has copies….

    • blinduser says:

      The NSA…get it from them…that is exactly what I thought when I first heard of this douchbaggery…I thought they were reading and storing all emails or some shit…or was that just us peon’s emails…

  27. Spade says:

    I’m on computer three at my fed contracting job. I’ve never lost a single email. It would take that and the death of two servers at the same time.

  28. Cacti35 says:

    Time to appoint a special prosecutor.

    • Delilah T. says:

      …or a bunch of really good hackers who can crack Lois’s passwords like old nuts and retrieve anything and everything she thinks she hid or got rid of.

      There is one thing: it’s frequently true that people who engage in serious deception hang onto what they are hiding like rats clutching straw in a bucket of water. I don’t know why, but it happens a lot.

  29. Rub says:

    IRS IT guy explains. Users are limited to 500 MB of mail on the Exchange Server, Senior Executives 1 GB. If they want to keep more than that, they create a .pst folder on their hard drive, and are responsible for backing up what they keep on their hard drive. Many of them are not responsible about backing up their crap. When a hard drive fails, technicians attempt to decrypt the drive using an enterprise tool, and if that is successful, they recover the data they can from the failed drive. The effort expended in recovering data that the user has not backed up is pretty relevant to the position of the user. Lerner got a LOT of effort. Once the data is recovered, or not, the drive is sanitized by degaussing, or physical destruction, and goes in the scrap bin. Since this story erupted, all removed hard drives and replaced computers go to a central warehouse for data analysis and retention, before that they were wiped using G Disk, or degaussed, depending on their condition. The Exchange admin guys did not properly set up retention policies to satisfy federal records regulations, and on top of being idiots about that, were overwriting back up media after 6 months.

    • LC says:

      Thanks for the info, Rub. Is it safe to assume the encryption keys are kept by central IT, so decryption itself wasn’t an issue and it’s more likely she simply didn’t store backup PST files?

      I haven’t been following this closely so I’m not sure the time-frame between the period of interest and when the investigation was triggered, but 0.5GB-1GB is pretty easy to chew through if people are mailing around presentations, reports or other data attachments.

      • Rub says:

        There is a standard Enterprise Disk Encryption protocol. The standard decryption tools require at least some functionality of the hard drive if they are going to work. If the drive is completely dead, it is useless. For the standard user, there is no further effort made. The cost and time to use advanced forensic techniques to recover data from a typical user aren’t worth it. Case files for audits, collections, Tax Exempt etc are all input on server based systems. The stuff on hard drives are interoffice communication, training guides, evaluations, individual time records, typical crap. But also the emails that people pull into their .pst files.

  30. Rub says:

    IRS IT guy explains. Users are limited to 500 MB of mail on the Exchange Server, Senior Executives 1 GB. If they want to keep more than that, they create a .pst folder on their hard drive, and are responsible for backing up what they keep on their hard drive. Many of them are not responsible about backing up their crap. When a hard drive fails, technicians attempt to decrypt the drive using an enterprise tool, and if that is successful, they recover the data they can from the failed drive. The effort expended in recovering data that the user has not backed up is pretty relevant to the position of the user. Lerner got a LOT of effort. Once the data is recovered, or not, the drive is sanitized by degaussing, or physical destruction, and goes in the scrap bin. Since this story erupted, all removed hard drives and replaced computers go to a central warehouse for data analysis and retention, before that they were wiped using G Disk, or degaussed, depending on their condition. The Exchange admin guys did not properly set up retention policies to satisfy federal records regulations, and on top of being idiots about that, were overwriting back up media after 6 months.

  31. Anonymous says:

    How can you tell someone from the IRS lies? Their lips move!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *