The plot thickens, via NBC News:
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee say that their investigators have learned that the hard drive belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner was "scratched" and that data was recoverable, according to a release from the committee. The release says that it's unclear if the scratch was put there deliberately or accidentally. Republicans are now accusing the IRS of not being forthcoming after they said in court filings that the data on Lerner's hard drive was unrecoverable....Whether Lois Lerner's emails and data were lost has become the most recent focus in Republicans' investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the tax-exempt office of the IRS. Lerner pled the fifth during two appearances before the House Oversight Committee, which called her to testify about that targeting.
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp unloads on the IRS:
Despite early refusals to make available IT professionals who worked on Lois Lerner’s computer, Ways and Means Committee investigators have now learned from interviews that the hard drive of former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner was “scratched,” but data was recoverable. In fact, in-house professionals at the IRS recommended the Agency seek outside assistance in recovering the data. That information conflicts with a July 18, 2014 court filing by the Agency, which stated the data on the hard drive was unrecoverable – including multiple years’ worth of missing emails. “It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). “The Committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded. 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.” It is also unknown whether the scratch was accidental or deliberate, but former federal law enforcement and Department of Defense forensic experts consulted by the Committee say that most of the data on a scratched drive, such as Lerner’s, should have been recoverable...Further complicating the situation, the Committee’s investigation has revealed evidence that this declaration may not be accurate. A review of internal IRS IT tracking system documents revealed that Lerner’s computer was actually once described as “recovered.”
Wow. It sure would be nice to get these IT experts on the record in sworn, public testimony -- if only to witness Democrats' epic excuse-making. Allahpundit snarks that even if a video emerged of Lerner beating her hard drive with a hammer, Elijah Cummings and friends would still be sneering about GOP "conspiracy theories." Based on these reports, it sounds as if the IRS at first tried to deny investigators access to these professionals, who've since revealed that Lerner's hard drive wasn't irrevocably "crashed" when the matter was brought to their attention in 2011 -- less than two weeks after Congressional Republicans first began asking questions about the agency's (since-admitted) abusive targeting practices. According to the release, the IRS decided against "utilizing outside experts to recover the data" at that time. Why? IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently testified under oath that the IRS did everything it could to recover all of Lerner's files (before being forced to concede that they hadn't actually done everything). Lerner's lawyer has said the same, asserting that "every effort" was made to do so. This new evidence suggests that was not the case. A few questions: (1) What happened to the hard drive? After it was "scratched," and someone allegedly made the call not to mine its recoverable data, was it then proactively destroyed? Or is it still floating around somewhere? Camp's memo says the IRS "believes it was recycled." (2) How does a hard drive get scratched, exactly? And how often does that sort of thing happen -- unintentionally, that is? I'm not alone in wondering, either:
@allahpundit i guess my next question would be: How often are hard drives physically scratched?— Vox's Research Dept. (@AceofSpadesHQ) July 22, 2014
Let's not forget that the IRS now claims a group of more than a dozen agency officials who dealt with Lerner also experienced hard drive "crashes" (scratches?), resulting in lost emails. What are the chances of that happening? No, really. What are they? Here's another weird one, via a Washington Post piece that posed a series of questions to the IRS from a professional IT entity:
1.) What happened to the IRS’s IT asset managers who appear to have disappeared at a key juncture?
Ordering the destruction of a hard drive and documenting that process would be handled by trained, certified IT asset managers, according to IAITAM. But the group’s records show that at least three IRS IT asset managers were shuffled out of their positions around the time of the May 2013 inspector general’s report that detailed the agency’s targeting practices. IAITAM said investigators need to “determine if these in-house IT asset managers were removed from the picture as the IRS email investigation heated up.”
That timing seems...suspicious, no? Oh, and mere days after the IRS' Inspector General report blew this scandal wide open, why was Lerner poking around trying to figure out whether the agency's internal instant messaging system was archived anywhere, meaning that conversations could be traced? "Not a smidgen of corruption," the president insists. Americans don't believe him, and for good reason. I'll leave you with this Reason TV parody song, which amusingly pays tribute to all of these head-spinning "coincidences:"