IRS seeks contractor to destroy hard drives — properly

The Internal Revenue Service is looking for a contractor to destroy 75,000 electronic storage devices, including thousands of hard drives, according to a solicitation from the agency this week.

The IRS said it is “entrusted with a tremendous amount of sensitive information” and that properly destroying unneeded devices will “preserve and enhance public confidence” that the agency is protecting and properly using the data.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Lawmakers have questioned the IRS’s handling of old storage devices since the agency reported in June that it destroyed the hard drive of Lois Lerner, a former official at the center of the agency’s targeting controversy. The IRS said it lost a year’s worth of Lerner’s e-mails after her computer crashed in 2011 and that it destroyed her hard drive after trying unsuccessfully to recover the data with help from IT experts and forensic specialists.

The IRS has struggled to provide documentation and details of the device’s destruction, raising suspicions, especially among Republicans, that the agency may have intentionally eliminated Lerner’s hard drive to conceal a plot against tax-exempt conservative groups during the past two election cycles.

The solicitation, first reported in a Washington Times article, said the contractor must provide a certificate of destruction. It also calls for the use of guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, saying the devices containing sensitive information would need to be disintegrated, shredded, burned or pulverized. The agency said less-sensitive information can be destroyed with on-site mobile equipment.

The procurement also noted that the IRS is “refreshing IRS employees’ awareness of existing policies and procedures regarding safeguarding of sensitive information.” The agency said it has asked workers to review their digital and paper files for information that needs to be secured, encrypt sensitive data and decide whether some of the records can be archived or destroyed.

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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Josh Hicks · July 22, 2014