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    Monday, June 23, 2014

    IRS Hearings Today: Their Email Sucks

    The IRS Comissioner, John Koskinen is up on the Hill tonight, testifying as to why they lost some thousands of Lois Lerner's emails.

    Tonight I have learned that the government has some pretty screwed up information retention requirements, and that the IRS in general is about where the rest of America is in IT maturity.  Democrats want to make it clear that the IRS's email problems are not anything a few hundred million bucks couldn't fix.

    I can empathize with the IRS's data retention problems.  They have massive volumes of email and like most businesses and organizations they have to manage that volume.  Server capacity and storage capacity is always a limited resource, so, they force their end users to save email locally (on their hard drives), which, apparently, in Lois Lerner's case, is what she did.

    This, of course, coupled with users who do not back up their hard drives regularly, leads to crashes and loss of data.  That's what conviently happened to Lois Lerner.  Of course, the IRS is attempting to find all her emails by going through the email of those she may have sent them to, or been included on, and, with luck, they'll find most of them.

    I have some questions:
    1. Did Lois Lerner routinely back up her hard drive, which would have included the impacted emails?
    2. What was IRS policy regarding the back-up of hard drives at the IRS?
    3. If Lois Lerner's hard drive was backed up, what has become of that back-up, and why hasn't it been restored? What are the retention requirements for these back-ups? Are back up tapes re-used (as is common), or are they archived?
    4. What exact efforts were made to retrieve the data off Ms. Lerner's hard drive, including forensic activity after it was not restored using traditional means?
    While Dems mostly preened (although some pointed out the IRS largely followed their rules here), there were some other good points brought up:

    1. Why did Mr. Koskinen not inform Congress immediately when emails under subpoena were learned to be lost?
    2. Who informed Mr. Koskinen that the hard drive was dead and the emails lost? How was this communicated? It is completely unbelievable to me, and obviously to Republican members of the panel, that he could possibly not know the answer to this question.  He seems to have lost his memory on this and on the next question:
    3. When did you learn the emails were lost? He claims it was "April"

    It's not unreasonable to believe that Lois Lerner's hard drive failed and that it took email with it.  It's convenient timing, but it happens.  The response to it is a typical IT response and a typical user wanting all their crap back from a drive they know they shouldn't have been relying on.  I really see no fault there on the IRS's part,  except this is a particular agency we'd expect to be a little more careful in their data management.  

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