Reconstructing Ms. Lerner’s Mailbox

mail128Here is a Yahoo news article called Congress to probe how IRS emails could go missing that provides a bit more information about the IRS efforts to reconstruct Ms. Lerner’s mailbox. Since the IRS does not appear to have printed copies of her emails as required by IRS policy they had to go around to 83 computers in the IRS to find the emails. Is this enough? Due to the “very weak policy for email archiving and retention” at the IRS I think the investigation is obligated to go through the emails, identify any people who might have been emailed by her in departments other than the IRS, and subpoena those mailboxes. It is crude and rude but the IRS policies for email archiving and retention have consequences on the functioning of the rest of the government, too. Hopefully the other departments are not as stupid as the IRS. Although this might sound counter-intuitive the investigation’s actions are in the best interest of the IRS. The IRS crashed the family car while texting and under the influence of alcohol. If our son or daughter did this it would be a long time for them to regain our trust. This is the same situation faced by the IRS. Here are the statements from the news article I found most interesting.

“If they knew there was a problem in 2011,” said Henry, now president of CrowdStrike, a security technology company, “they could have or should have been able to recover it.”

The IRS told Congress last week that recovering emails has been a challenge because doing so is “a more complex process for the IRS than it is for many private or public organizations.”

The IRS was able to find copies of 24,000 Lerner emails from between 2009 and 2011 because Lerner had sent copies to other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it was producing 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering 2009 to 2013. The agency said it searched for emails of 83 people and spent nearly $10 million to produce hundreds of thousands of documents.

At the time that Lerner’s computer crashed, IRS policy had been to make copies of all IRS employees’ email inboxes every day and hold them for six months. The agency changed the policy in May 2013 to keep these snapshots for a longer, unspecified amount of time. Had this been the policy in 2011, when at least two of the computer crashes occurred, there likely could have been backups of the lost emails today.

The chief executive for an email-archiving company, Pierre Villeneuve of Jatheon Technologies, said most public and private sector organizations keep emails for several years, not six months, because of financial regulations and inexpensive computer storage.

“To have a large agency like the IRS have a very weak policy for email archiving and retention is quite shocking,” Villeneuve said. “If this were a private enterprise and they couldn’t produce this information on demand, they’d be in trouble. They’d either be fined or accused of hiding information.”