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IRS Recycled Lerner Hard Drive 682

Posted by timothy
from the but-please-keep-your-tax-records-forever dept.
phrackthat (2602661) writes The Senate Finance Committee has been informed that the IRS recycled the hard drive of Lois Lerner, which will deprive investigators of the ability to forensically retrieve emails which were supposedly deleted or lost in a "crash." This news comes after the IRS revealed that it had lost the emails of Lois Lerner and six other employees who were being investigated regarding the targeting of conservative groups and donors.
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IRS Recycled Lerner Hard Drive

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:59AM (#47270959)

    More people need to go to prison for "white collar" crimes. The brash disregard of the law has turned into an epidemic because everybody with an ounce of clout is let off the hook with a slap on the wrist.

  • right-wing spin (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:59AM (#47270969)

    They targeted groups for their anti-IRS activities, not because of their conservative politics. That is a typical Tea Party spin of this story. Even if they were targeting conservatives, it wouldn't be any less fair than the FBI/NSA targeting liberals, which it did for decades.

  • Lost... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:02AM (#47270991)

    We lost the backups. Her computer drive was taken apart and recycled into a crib mobile for underprivileged infants. We had printouts but those were shredded into organic compost. The tape backups were overwritten as we only have one backup set of tapes. The people who sent her the email also deleted them from their "sent" boxes as they only have 5MB of quota for that mail box. The people who received her email deleted them from their inboxes as we rigorously practice inbox zero.

    So you see, no monkey business here.

  • Re:whistling (Score:4, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:02AM (#47270995)
    The question to ask is: Did the drive get destroyed prior to a retention order being issued?

    If so, then that's SOP; Dead hardware is recycled.

    If not, someone goes to jail.
  • Re:Fox News? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pastafazou (648001) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:02AM (#47270997)
    can you find the story on the Washington Post or the New York Times? If so, maybe you could provide a link, and we can compare the details included or omitted by each source. If, on the other hand, all you want to do is take a cheap shot at Fox news, then maybe you should be modded down as a troll....
  • Re:Fox News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:02AM (#47270999)
    I wouldn't necessarily look upon this as a partisan attack or the babbling of conspiracy theorists, although there probably is some of both in the mix. The reality of the situation is that people in public office and certainly people at that level need to have all official e-mails archived. Relying on the un-backed-up hard drive of a computer as the sole repository of official communications is complete insanity. Heads need to roll over this. They wouldn't accept this as an excuse when they're chasing after private citizens for this or for that. And to top it all off, the information probably does exist somewhere on a government server ... controlled by the NSA. It's out of control.
  • Re:How Convenient (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pastafazou (648001) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:06AM (#47271027)
    You're absolutely correct, and everyone with any idea about IT knows this. Every story about this on the 'net has plenty of comments suggesting it too. So why don't the folks on the committee asking questions know it?
  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:06AM (#47271029)

    your health records when they can't even keep your tax data??

    Why the hell aren't these people slapped with an obstruction of justice fine??

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:17AM (#47271123) Homepage

    Or it could be FAKE NEWS and the others refuse to report on made up bullshit? A Lot of news outlets are prone to make shit up. CNN did that over and over, Fox news has, etc...

    Until I see at least three separate reported stories on different sources of it with complete information, I treat everything reported on Fox news or ANY other news outlet and 100% bullshit.

    Our fucking news sources are 90% entertainment and 10% professional today.

  • Re:whistling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:22AM (#47271163)

    The question to ask is: Did the drive get destroyed prior to a retention order being issued?

    If so, then that's SOP; Dead hardware is recycled.

    If not, someone goes to jail.

    The recycling of the hardware isn't a question in my mind. Of course they recycle hardware...
    No email archiving? really? Of an IRS director?
    All of her emails were really stored in a local PST file, with no backup what-so-ever?
    And after that hard drive failed, with no backup, you then destroyed the drive?

    Now that is a series of coincidental incompetence that I just cannot accept.
    It's fathomable yes, but the Republicans certainly have the right to turn this into a full on circus.
    Nothing Bush ever did was this obviously corrupt and he was up to all sorts of evil.
    I always thought of Obama as similar to Jimmy Carter. I disagree with his policies, he's failing miserably, but his hearts in the right place.
    Now I see him as more of a Nixon.

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:24AM (#47271185)

    Because Fox News paints it like this was some sort of sudden nefarious act by the IRS and fails to give relevant facts. Politico [politico.com] gives a much more detailed explanation that makes it less like a grand conspiracy. Lerner's HD crashed in 2011. It was replaced. IT threw away the old drive because it wasn't functioning. When facts are presented, it doesn't seem like it's that big a conspiracy.

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:31AM (#47271251)
    Maybe the media doesn't report it because it's not that big a story. Politico [politico.com] did report on it and they presented with many more facts that makes it seem like less a story. Fox News paints it like the IRS suddenly destroyed an old HD. In reality, the HD crashed in 2011 and was replaced. Being broken, IT threw it away. End of story.

    Obama could get IMPEACHED over this. This is turning into a Watergate level scandal.

    For that to happen, Obama would have to be involved. So far EVERY single detail of this so called "scandal" has uncovered that the President knew about it. Most likely because the actions of every single bureaucrat doesn't involve the President. Basically it's the GOP trying anything they can to oppose the President. Fake scandals like this one are just another tactic. And guess what, you're the sucker the GOP/Fox News is targeting.

    It could all be coincidental, but seriously? The IRS doesn't archive email? REALLY?

    Well if you read another source other than Fox, you would have known that the IRS keeps 6 months of emails. The GOP is asking for emails that go back 3 years.

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:32AM (#47271263) Homepage Journal

    "We've been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away," - Sen. Orrin Hatch:Finance Committee

    What exactly prompted you to attempt that lame non-sequitor to Fox News? How exactly does it support any position that this did not happen, which was your obvious attempt to imply?

    OK, here you go: The hard drive containing her emails "crashed" (it was unusable and could not be recovered by the IRS IT staff) and as a result, it was recycled/destroyed and replaced with a new one. The actual source was a Politico story which, besides conjecture, contained only this brief line of concrete information:

    “We’ve been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a brief hallway interview.

    So, unless there is some compelling reason to think that the drive was corrupted purposefully, or the recovery was disingenuous, then all you have here is SOP for any IT department (fix what's broke). Yet the only thing we see on Foxnews.com is a story painted to look exactly like the uncovering of a conspiracy (see all the other rants about impeachment for an example of how severely people are overreacting to this.)

    Anything else I can help with?

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:36AM (#47271301) Journal
    I'm just baffled as to how IT managed to avoid being lynched by the cube drones if their standards for data retention and redundancy are in fact that low.

    People hate losing data, and storing it the employee's HDD (except as an expendable cache purely for speed and bandwidth purposes) is roughly equivalent, once you have a decent number of people in the office, to just randomly deleting some sucker's email every week or two. Even in complete absence of any legal requirements, the users would either switch to unofficially using some shit webmail service or rise up with pitchforks in short order.

    I am less than convinced by the alleged nonprofit status of some of the poor, wounded, groups whining about their treatment by the IRS; but the IRS sure is doing an excellent job of looking guilty as hell right about now.
  • by msauve (701917) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:49AM (#47271435)
    Selective enforcement is a violation of the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
  • Re:Fox News? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by danbert8 (1024253) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:53AM (#47271473)

    Yes, because I work for an oil company and when the government comes to investigate a pipeline leak they suspect was due to intentional decision making and my emails were lost in a hard drive crash and the drive was thrown away is a completely valid excuse and I'm sure the EPA will let us off the hook for any potential negative information that may have been contained in those emails.

  • by asylumx (881307) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:56AM (#47271519)
    Seriously! One person's emails != my tax data...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:57AM (#47271543)

    Enlighten us on which ones are fake?

    200+ dead Mexicans from a failed ATF program, where Holder refused to give Congress requested information?
    4 dead people at an embassy in Libya?
    Dead people on VA waiting lists for treatment?
    The if you like your health plan you can keep it, lie of the year last year?

    Perhaps hundreds and hundreds of dead people is fake outrage for you, but its not for their family members.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:06AM (#47271625) Homepage Journal

    How many other institutions are being used to pursue a political agenda instead of their true function?

    All of them.

    Except that is their true function. Don't mistake the window dressing for the window.

  • by footNipple (541325) <footnipple.indiatimes@com> on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:13AM (#47271699)

    The politicization of the IRS should be the biggest scandal ever.

    This scandal would have been. Heck, it would have knocked the Earth slightly out of it's orbit if the situation was inverted. That is if the IRS was targeting leftist groups under a republican administration.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:14AM (#47271723)

    Conspiracy theory, much? Really?

    When it's the user's hard drive and the contents of the mail server and the backups of the hard drive and the backups of the mail server and the user seems reluctant to tell the truth about what the emails actually say and there are allegations of misconduct involving said emails and (as far as we know) the IRS isn't also missing a whole bunch of non-related emails, only "coincidentally" the potentially-damaging ones... then maybe it really is a fucking conspiracy!

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:29AM (#47271961)

    Another ignorant fox watcher. We've covered many times how the IRS enforcing Tax Law and ensuring that nonprofits file for nonprofit status under the proper section of law is NOT ILLEGAL and NOT A SCANDAL.

    It's illegal if they do it selectively based on the political preferences of the current administration. That is, it's not the "enforcing the law" that is illegal, it's the failure to enforce it consistently.

    Furthermore, the law itself is a scandal. The IRS simply shouldn't be in a position to make these kinds of decisions. Non-profits should be allowed to engage in political activities freely.

    Another ignorant fox watcher.

    Amazingly enough, many conservatives and independents don't watch Fox at all. Personally, I read the Huffington Post, the WP, and Mother Jones, just to keep up with the idiotic ideas "Liberals" and Obama fans get in their heads.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:30AM (#47271971) Journal

    If the lowly peon isn't held accountable for his direct actions, then the next time management asks him to do something wrong or illegal, there's one less reason for him to refuse. If he refuses, he can be assured of repercussions from management, but experience has shown him that threat of legal consequences is low if he complies; the path of least resistance is clear.

    What you're advocating is that the IT puke be arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and punished for... working an anonymous hardware ticket in the IT task management tool. Probably one of dozens added to the system in any day.

    I'm sure you're envisioning IT minion being called into Big Bad Evil Bureaucrat's office and being told "This hard drive contains crucial evidence which will destroy every Great and Evil thing I have worked for so long to accomplish. You must destroy it... use the Impractically Slow Hard Drive Destruction Machine in our Sea of Japan secret volcano base."

    In practice, I'm sure it was the IP weenie going "Huh. A hardware decommisioning ticket from Remedy. A dozen hard drives."

    Yeah. There's individual moral responsibility. But while we're at it, let's imprison undertakers for destroying murder evidence in cases where the murder isn't uncovered until after the burial.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:33AM (#47272009)

    Yes, and we elected Obama to fix these problems, as he promised over and over again during his campaign, and as he pointed to his credentials as a constitutional scholar for why he was qualified to do it.

    We elected Obama to end spying on American citizens, abuse of power, extraterritorial killings, war mongering, and crony capitalism.

    Instead, Obama has embraced and expanded all of those and has turned out to be worse than Bush in many ways.

    "Bush did it" is not sufficient excuse for Obama to do it; "Bush did it" should be an immediate signal to any decent, honest president not to do it as well.

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigpat (158134) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:42AM (#47272127)

    Relying on the un-backed-up hard drive of a computer as the sole repository of official communications is complete insanity. Heads need to roll over this. They wouldn't accept this as an excuse when they're chasing after private citizens for this or for that.

    Yes, not having emails backed up on a server in some sort of archive would be absurd. Government requires document retention of just about everything. Unless every email was end to end encrypted, but even then there should be good key management that would allow investigators to decrypt the emails. Just seems absurd that with all the document retention policies the government has that it wouldn't have copies of those emails someplace. Or that other government agencies or the White House wouldn't have copies of inter-agency emails. If the trail dries up it is because people want it to dry up.

    The assumption now is that the White House instigated increased IRS scrutiny on groups aligned with the Tea Party which would be a very serious abuse of presidential power to use the tax collecting and police powers of the executive branch to target opposition political groups.

    Nixon is rolling over in his grave... the lesson for history is if Nixon had just destroyed all the tapes he could have gotten away with his dirty tricks brigade and abuses of power.

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:59AM (#47272363)
    Actually I think there was never a real need to communicate directly with the Whitehouse about it. If they did I am sure they did it face to face and not over email.

    What I do believe is that she was wielding her power with a purpose. She went out to get those tea party people. We already know that Senator were demanding that the IRS "Investigate" these groups.

    Is it really a surprise that people who believe that the ends justify the means would do this? You don't have to go to congress. You can prosecute the laws you want to. You can decide what laws to defend and which ones not to. You can lie. You can omit. You can obfuscate. All of these things are business as usual. We have just come to a conclusion as a people that if you are a politician you can do criminal things and not be a criminal. We should just write it in the statute and accept what we accept.

  • Re: Fox News? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @11:17AM (#47272551) Journal

    Communism does work. All you need is enough guns and a lot of good boots to stomp on pepple with.

    And the people will cherish and enjoy every minute of it whether they like it or not.

  • by Megol (3135005) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @11:23AM (#47272623)

    So you like to ignore that nothing indicates that this was "selective enforcement" in any relevant way? That there seems to be _no_ political bias involved (given the equal focus on liberal groups)?

    BTW selective enforcement is used all over the world, the selection is mostly random though.

  • Re:Fox News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @11:46AM (#47272915)
    You are missing the point. None of the tea party groups were denied status. You are correct. They have not been denied because they were doing nothing wrong. There was no basis for a denial. So the IRS just delayed and demanded massive amounts of crazy information. There are still groups waiting years to get approved!

    The fact that the IRS is out of control is obvious. The idea that it will swing its crazyness in the preferred direction is a given. If you either believe that the IRS is doing a fine job and does not wield too much power then you either have a vested interest in the system as it stands (Employed by the IRS or a Tax profesional) or you are deluded. If you think that groups that want to see the IRS and many government jobs get deleted or reduced are not targeted specifically by those they want to destroy then you have no idea how humans behave and I call you out as an alien impostor.

  • by sjames (1099) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @12:18PM (#47273277) Homepage

    All that does is put a bunch of people between a rock and a hard place. Go after the person who gave the order.

    Besides that, it is likely that the person who recycled the HD didn't know and perhaps didn't have the authority to know that there was anything on it but a virus laden copy of Windows. The IRS is big enough that the PC guy and the mail admin might not know each other.

    Shit already rolls downhill, it doesn't need the force of law added to it.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @02:43PM (#47274785)
    And what if the illegal act was the result of a legal order?

    They "recycle" thousands of drives a year. The manager knew this one was more "interesting", but the IT worker didn't and couldn't. It'd be like throwing a mail-man in jail because a letter he delivered contained a threat or orders for a terrorist cell.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @03:29PM (#47275269) Homepage

    From 2001-2011, I worked for a series of contractors under NASA.

    Most users who I supported were administrators and managers of various stripes, and a few users who were skilled with desktop publishing, web development, imagery, video, or 3d modeling/CAD. Most of them didn't understand how computers worked, and didn't care how they worked. They were just magic boxes that they used to do work with.

    The idea of deleting email was frightening to most users. Email was a record that proved that you did work, and could be used for Cover Your Ass in the event of an inquiry. It could also prove a conversation happened, that an agreement was made, and so settle many disputes arising out of miscommunication. Most people whom I worked with hardly ever deleted messages, and because their local hard drive had plenty of capacity, they didn't have a real need to.

    Until 2007, we used POP3 clients running on the local machine to download mail from a server. Messages were deleted from the server once downloaded, so only existed on the client machine at that point. Some users had decades of email stored in their client on their local hard drive, which typically was not backed up. I'm sure the servers had some redundancy and short backup, but to my knowledge we did not have a system that archived email. The closest thing resembling an archive was the aggregate collection of all mailboxes on the the client machines' hard drives.

    Occasionally we did have users lose data due to a failed hard drive. Users who got bit by data loss tended to learn from this and implement safeguard such as backup to server, or to removable media. But incredibly, these lessons, once learned, were not applied at more than the individual level. People might talk to each other and departments might share knowledge for how to back up data, but it was never something that was codified in policy. People were on their own to implement their own backup and to make sure it worked. It was something that if anything, was encouraged, but not required or enforced. But very often it was not thought about until after the fact of a data loss incident.

    In 2007, we moved to Outlook/Exchange for email. Many long time users were very put off by the change, and did not want to give up their Eudora, and could not deal with the fact that we were not going to migrate their old email into Exchange. Enough resistance was put up that IT ended up continuing to support the client side of the old email system indefinitely, so that users could still access their local archive of old email, and possibly also use automation features in their old client to continue to run processes that generated automated mail messages.

    Exchange uses MAPI, so in the new system our messages were now always left on the server, until deleted. We had 1GB server quotas (around this time I believe Gmail was giving the world ~6GB for free). In theory, the 1GB server quota gave us security from data loss because the Exchange server's storage was backed up. In fact, the low quota size forced much more mail deletion than had ever happened in the old POP3 days of decentralized, distributed ad-hoc archive. But this was by design rather than by defect. And it was a lot easier to restore any retained data if it was lost.

    All the same, users did not want to delete email, ever. Once they hit their quota on the server, they'd submit requests asking for an increase to their quota, which only would be granted if the volume of incoming mail that they had to deal with made a larger quota necessary in order to allow them to have a reasonable backlog of mail going back 6 months to a year, or they had a senior enough position that they could get whatever they demanded. Even then, when people hit their new quota, they still didn't want to delete old messages. The IT team supporting the new email refused to support this in any way, but didn't prevent users from creating local .pst files which they could use to store mail, once again on the local hard drive

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