IRS experts say Lois Lerner’s hard drive was just scratched

The IRS’s claim that Lois Lerner’s hard drive was irreparably damaged always seemed laughable to attorneys who (like John and me) have been involved in disputes over electronic discovery, as well as to IT professionals and their trade association. Now we learn, via Byron York, that IRS’s own IT professionals dispute this claim:

Top IRS officials told congressional investigators that Lois Lerner’s hard drive — the one containing emails that could shed light on the IRS targeting scandal — was irreparably damaged before it was destroyed completely in 2011.

But now, investigators have had a chance to talk to the technical experts inside the IRS who actually examined Lerner’s computer, and the experts say the hard drive in question was actually just “scratched,” and that most of the data on it was recoverable.

However, the IRS wasn’t willing to take “yes” for an answer; not when there might well be incriminating evidence to be concealed:

The IRS computer experts also told the committee that they had recommended seeking outside help in recovering the data from Lerner’s computer — something IRS management declined to do.

I agree with David Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who says, “to now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrong doing at the IRS.”

According to Byron, House investigators have also learned that at least for some period of time, Lerner’s computer was listed as “recovered” in an internal IRS IT tracking document. The committee says IRS experts were not able to say whether “recovered” meant that the hard drive had actually been saved or whether it had met some other fate. But “recovered” in ordinary usage would seem to mean a fate less fatal than that which IRS witnesses have asserted.

Clearly, the IRS hasn’t been leveling with Congress. Naturally, its failure to do so only fuels the investigation. This suggests that the IRS perceives a need to cover up wrongdoing that extends considerably further than that which has already been uncovered.

Most likely, the wrongdoing extends further not just in scope, but also in terms of people behind it.

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