IRS email controversy continues this week with two hearings

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A controversy-within-a-controversy erupted this month when the Internal Revenue Service revealed it had lost years worth of emails to and from former official Lois Lerner, a key figure in the agency’s alleged tea party scandal.

The saga continued straight through the weekend last week as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) issued a massive homework assignment for IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Issa asked the agency chief in a letter on Saturday to answer more than 50 technological questions related to the missing records before testifying about the matter at a hearing on Monday evening. The committee has scheduled a follow-up hearing on the same topic for Tuesday.


IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is sworn in during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on June 20. (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Koskinen refused to apologize for the lost emails during a contentious hearing with the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, saying the problem was a result of “technical glitches.”

The IRS has said it lost the emails when Lerner’s hard drive crashed in June 2011. The agency subsequently destroyed the device as a matter of protocol after trying to recover the data with help from technical experts, including IRS forensic specialists.

MORE: Here’s how the IRS lost emails from key witness Lois Lerner

Republicans on the Ways and Means committee said Koskinen should have been more forthcoming about the missing emails. The IRS told Congress about the issue on June 13, despite informing the Treasury Department months earlier.

“You say that you’ve lost the e-mails, but what you’ve lost is all credibility,” said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who heads the panel.

Issa has suggested that the IRS may have deliberately lost Lerner’s records, saying in a statement last week that the destruction of her hard drive might represent “proof that their whole line about ‘losing’ e-mails in the targeting scandal was just one more attempted deception.”


House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). (AP/Charles Dharapak).

For what it’s worth, missing emails are not unique to the Obama administration. It happened while George W. Bush was in the White House as well — basically, as long as email has been ubiquitous in the workplace. For more details, check out the Federal Eye’s history of lost emails in government scandals.

Below are the questions Issa asked Koskinen to answer before Monday’s hearing, which starts at 7 p.m.

1. Please explain the failure of the hard drive on Lois Lerner’s computer in or around 2011, including the following information:

a. Please provide the date of the failure of the hard drive.

b. Please identify the type of failure – hardware or software – of the hard drive.

c. Please identify all IRS employees who had any responsibility or role in examining or recovering data from the hard drive between January 1, 2011, and August 31, 2011.

d. Please explain the steps, and provide the corresponding dates, taken by the IRS to attempt to recover data from the hard drive between January 1, 2011, and August 31, 2011.

e. Please explain whether the IRS issued a new computer or hard drive to Lois Lerner following the hard drive failure in or around 2011.

2. Please explain the IRS’s discovery that the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer resulted in the destruction of documents responsive to the Committee’s subpoenas of August 2, 2013, and February 14, 2014, including the following information:

f. Please identify all IRS employees who had any responsibility or role in identifying, reviewing, redacting, or producing documents to the Committee in 2013 and 2014.

g. Please identify the IRS employee who initially discovered the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer in the course of reviewing, redacting, or producing documents to the Committee in 2013 and 2014.

h. Please provide the date on which you learned of the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer.

i. Please explain how you learned of the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer.

j. Please provide the date on which you learned that the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer resulted in the destruction of documents responsive to the Committee’s subpoenas of August 2, 2013, and February 14, 2014.

k. Please explain how you learned that the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer resulted in the destruction of documents responsive to the Committee’s subpoenas of August 2, 2013, and February 14, 2014.

l. Please identify the IRS employee(s) who informed you that the hard drive failure on Lois Lerner’s computer resulted in the destruction of documents responsive to the Committee’s subpoenas of August 2, 2013, and February 14, 2014.

3. Please explain the steps, and provide the corresponding dates, taken by the IRS to attempt to recover data from the hard drive(s) on Lois Lerner’s computer(s) between May 10, 2013, and the present, including the following information:

m. Please identify all IRS employees who had any responsibility or role in recovering data from the hard drive(s) on Lois Lerner’s computer(s) between May 10, 2013, and the present.

n. Please explain whether the IRS used a clean room or similar controlled-environment facility to attempt to recover data from the hard drive(s) on Lois Lerner’s computer(s).

o. Please provide the name and location of the clean room or similar controlled-environment facility used to attempt to recover data from the hard drive(s) on Lois Lerner’s computer(s).

p. Please provide the date(s) on which the hard drive(s) on Lois Lerner’s computer(s) was sent to a clean room or similar controlled-environment facility.

4. Please identify all IRS employees who had any responsibility or role in maintaining or servicing IRS e-mail exchange servers between 2009 and the present.

5. Please identify all vendors and outside contractors used by the IRS for the following purposes:

q. To develop, service, or maintain the IRS’s e-mail systems.

r. To develop, service, or maintain the IRS’s e-mail exchange servers.

s. To recycle or destroy IRS hard drives.

t. To provide mobile phone and data services.

6. Please identify the IRS employee(s) most knowledgeable about the following information:

u. The IRS’s e-mail systems.

v. The IRS’s e-mail exchange servers.

w. The IRS’s mobile phone devices and service contracts.

x. The IRS’s document retention policies and procedures.

y. Digital forensics and data recovery.

z. The IRS’s asset inventory of computers and mobile phones.

7. Please identify the IRS employee(s) with last known custody or control of the following items:

a. IRS computer(s) and mobile phone(s) issued to Lois Lerner.

b. IRS hard drive(s) or external drive(s) issued to Lois Lerner.

c. IRS e-mail exchange back-up tapes or drives.

d. IRS mobile phone records.

e. The IRS’s asset inventory of computers and mobile phones.

f. IRS “trouble ticket,” “incident ticket,” or “requisition request” A “trouble ticket,” “incident tickets,” or “requisition request” refers to any written record of malfunction, failure, or error relating to IRS electronic hardware. logs or records from January 1, 2011, to August 31, 2011.

g. IRS back-up logs or records for e-mail exchange servers between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2011.

h. IRS “trouble ticket,” “incident ticket,” or “requisition request” See supra note 7. logs or records from May 10, 2013, to the present.

8. Please explain the IRS’s document retention policies and procedures, including the following information:

i. Please identify the IRS document(s) that details the IRS’s document retention policies and procedures.

j. Please identify the IRS employee responsible for compliance and enforcement of the IRS’s document retention policies and procedures.

9. Please explain the architecture and structure of the IRS’s e-mails systems and exchange servers, including the following information:

k. Please identify the type of e-mail service used by the IRS.

l. Please identify the type of e-mail exchange server used by the IRS.

m. Please explain whether personal storage table (.pst) files are stored on the hard drives of the computers operated by IRS employee or on an IRS network or shared drive.

10. Please explain the architecture and structure of the IRS’s electronic data restoration and archival systems.

n. Please explain whether the IRS has separate systems for data restoration and data archival.

o. Please explain the IRS’s restoration and archival back-up policies for e-mail exchange servers between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2011.

p. Please explain the IRS’s restoration and archival back-up policies for hard drives and shared drives between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2011.

11. Please quantify the number of forensic images of the failed hard drive on Lois Lerner’s computer that currently exist.

12. Please quantify the number of forensic images of the failed hard drive on Lois Lerner’s computer that existed as of August 31, 2011.

13. Please quantify the following for the period January 1, 2011, to June 30, 2011:

q. The number “trouble tickets,” “incident tickets,” or “requisition requests” See supra note 7. issued for hard drive-related malfunctions on IRS computers.

r. The number of software malfunctions of hard drives on IRS computers.

s. The number of hardware malfunctions of hard drives on IRS computers.

t. The number of successful retrievals of data from hard drive-related malfunctions on IRS computers.

14. Please provide the barcode(s) for IRS computer(s) issued to Lois Lerner.

15. Please provide the barcode(s) for IRS mobile phone(s) issued to Lois Lerner.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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