The IRS and Lois Lerner blame “dated technology” for the computer crash that they unbelievably, even laughably, claim was responsible for the loss of Lerner’s email from 2009 through the middle of 2011, the crucial period of time during which any conspiracy to target Tea Party groups would have been hatched and carried out. Targeting began in 2010. [emphasis added to quotes]
“Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies,” said Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) in a statement. “Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone.”
Because the excuse proffered is that the crash happened because of outdated technology, it behooves us to ask some questions about just how old her computer and its operating system were.
What version of Windows was Lerner running on her computer? Windows 2000 (released in 1999); XP (2001); Windows Server 2003 (Win2K3, 2003); Windows Server 2003 R2 (2005); Vista (2005); Windows Server 2008 (2008); or Windows 7 (2009)? It couldn’t have been Windows 8 (2012), could it?
Or was her laptop so old that it was still running Windows 95, 98, or ME? It’s kind of important to know.
Was this laptop Lerner’s personal equipment or did the taxpayers supply it to her? If the latter, then where’s the audit trail for the equipment, from purchase to “death” and recycling?
Now her lawyer, William Taylor III, claims that poor Lois came to work one day in mid-2011, only to discover a “blue screen” on her computer, indicating the fatal problem. While this is entirely possible, was this particular “blue screen” the event that resulted in the loss of any email?
We all know by now how carefully some people in or connected to the Obama administration parse sentences and lie by omission, misdirection, and/or non sequitur.
One of the representatives on the House committee pointed out how the IRS isn’t particularly forthcoming–if the representatives don’t ask exactly the “right” questions, then the IRS doesn’t volunteer a thing. That’s not cooperation in anybody’s book.
My point is, could the “blue screen” that Lois allegedly saw one day be the symptom of the alleged crash that lost the email, or is the lawyer throwing this “blue screen” out there like so much chum? Anybody gonna bite?
Did Lerner experience a blue screen that had nothing whatsoever to do with the loss of critical email? Is it tangential? Co-occurring but not pertinent? A smoke screen? Just a BSoBS (aka, a blue screen of bullshit)?
Lerner’s lawyer further claimed that she called the IRS IT people about the blue screen and they tried to recover her hard drive, although nothing in the contemporaneous email that the IRS did miraculously and very quickly provide (to the Democrat-run Senate) indicates the loss of any email from her hard drive, only the loss of some documents that she valued, perhaps all being personal documents, which is how Lerner refers to them. From what source did Leonard Oursler pull these email messages dating back to July 19, 2011, if the backup tapes were overwritten and if Lerner’s email was all lost? Did the House committee think to subpoena that tape or source?
Names of personnel apprised of the alleged attempt to recover the data: Lillie V. Wilburn (Field Director, Customer Service Support, IRS IT Division); Diane L. Letourneau (Lerner’s executive assistant); and Carl T. Froehlich (who in 2012 was Associate CIO in IT). When will they testify?
Not one of many technicians who actually worked on the drive is named. One email by Wilburn refers to “the technician” as a “he,” who consulted with “several highly skilled technicians including HP experts,” but failed to recover the data. From this we can infer that her laptop was a Hewlett-Packard.
Another Wilburn email refers to the “CI tech” as a “he,” who at the time was on vacation, but who was also unable to recover the data when he returned. The IRS took that “extraordinary” step (per John Koskinen) of enlisting the help of IT forensic examiners in the criminal division. Why?
Alas, it was all to no avail. Or so they want us to believe.
This blue screen of death (BSoD) occurred, allegedly, coincidentally, and very conveniently, about 10 days after Rep. David Camp wrote to the IRS, concerned about 501(c)(4) political activities and donors who seemed to be targeted by the IRS for political reasons.
What type of computer crash was this, exactly? A “hard drive” crash? A “head crash“? A virus? A Trojan? A Worm? A driver error? All of this ought to be documented somewhere; it’s important to know.
Did Lerner and/or the IT techs do a RAM dump prior to trying to fix the alleged BSoD?
By default, Windows will create a memory dump file when a stop error occurs. Depending on the OS version, there may be several formats this can be saved in, ranging from a 64kB “minidump” (introduced in Windows 2000) to a “complete dump” which is effectively a copy of the entire contents of physical memory (RAM). The resulting memory dump file may be debugged later, using a kernel debugger. A debugger is necessary to obtain a stack trace, and may be required to ascertain the true cause of the problem; as the information on-screen is limited and thus possibly misleading, it may hide the true source of the error. By default, Windows XP is configured to save only a 64kB minidump when it encounters a stop error, and to then automatically reboot the computer. Because this process happens very quickly, the blue screen may be seen only for an instant or not at all. Users have sometimes noted this as a random reboot rather than a traditional stop error, and are only aware of an issue after Windows reboots and displays a notification that it has recovered from a serious error. …
Since Lerner saw the blue screen, can we assume she didn’t run Windows XP?
As you see, it’s rather important to know whether there was a memory dump created from her computer. If so, was it backed up somewhere? Printed out? Sent to another computer or even to Microsoft itself? Does Microsoft perhaps have a record of this fatal error?
Because Lerner says she’s technically naive and since she’s demonstrably lax about normal maintenance (like backing up files), might the dump files still exist on her laptop, unbeknownst to her? The laptop could contain evidence of the alleged crash. Did the House committee ever get her laptop? I believe it was subpoenaed.
Was Lerner able to, or were the IT techs able to, document the exact stop error that caused the problem? (See a stop error code above, on the photo at the top of the post.) This would seem to be important to know, too.
Give us that stop error code and let the IT people around the world tell us what’s plausible and what’s not.
There should be documentation that justifies the IT techs’ time and indicates why the hard drive ended up “recycled.” Who authorized taking the “extraordinary step” of calling in the IRS forensic investigators to try to recover Lerner’s personal files? Was it Wilburn? Did she write a letter to accompany the laptop hard drive? Where is it? Was there a work order? Where is it? Isn’t it costly to the taxpayers, and unjustified, to pull criminal forensic investigators off IRS investigations to try to recover Lois Lerner’s personal files? We the People aren’t supposed to ask.
Why didn’t these crack investigators suggest getting the data off the backup tapes or even the servers, all of which would still have contained her email at the time her laptop crashed?
If they did not suggest going to the servers or the backup tapes, then why not?
Could it be because this so-called laptop crash is a smoke screen to explain away why the IRS didn’t “find” the email under subpoena, when the truth may be that they simply don’t want to produce it, for obvious reasons?
Any of her personal files and email wouldn’t be on IRS servers to back up, so is that why no attempt was made to look for them there?
If IT and/or CI tech(s) did suggest recovering from the servers or backup tapes, then why wasn’t it done? Or was it?
Documentation of this BSoD, such as it is, might have been proffered merely as a smoke screen to cover for not providing the crucial email messages that might, just might, prove a Nixonian conspiracy to politicize the IRS.
Here’s what we’re supposed to believe, and all of it, frankly, is unbelievable even for those of us who aren’t IT experts:
1. Lois Lerner did not back up her official email anywhere (not on a thumb drive, an external hard drive, in the “cloud”, on a CD, on a DVD), if we are to believe what the House committee is being told. She was required to do so by law and IRS policy:
The IRS’s own definition of the Federal Records Act makes clear that emails must be saved and documented, according to an instructional page for employees on the IRS website.
“The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media,” according to the IRS. “Emails are records when they are: Created or received in the transaction of agency business; Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities; or Valuable because of the information they contain.”
“If you create or receive email messages during the course of your daily work, you are responsible for ensuring that you manage them properly,” according to the IRS. “The Treasury Department’s current email policy requires emails and attachments that meet the definition of a federal record be added to the organization’s files by printing them (including the essential transmission data) and filing them with related paper records. If transmission and receipt data are not printed by the email system, annotate the paper copy.”
2. Lerner didn’t print out copies of her email, as required by law. That’s because, we’re to believe, she wasn’t aware of the law or IRS policy, after serving in the government for many, many years. By the way, Lerner herself is a lawyer. What is it that they say? Oh, yeah: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
3. Lerner wanted very badly, and so did the IRS IT people, to recover whatever was on her hard disk. We’re told that her official email was “archived” on her laptop and that the “blue screen” crash caused it to be lost forevermore. However, her official email was also on the IRS server(s). Those servers were backed up regularly but, according to Koskinen, the tapes were overwritten every six months (which also violates the records retention law). When Lerner’s computer crashed, the IRS IT people did not, so far as Koskinen knows, try to restore her email and documents from the backup tapes that existed at that time. Those tapes would have contained her email for the prior six months. So at least six months of her email should have been available, and it’s likely that older messages would have been recoverable from folders other than her inbox (e.g., sent or saved message folders, or even trash, if she never emptied it). In addition, email might have been recoverable from the then-current email files and folders of recipients of her messages. Of what use are backup tapes if they’re not used to recover data? We’re to believe that nobody thought of doing it or else, as Koskinen implied, it was just too darned hard to do, so they chose to not follow the law. In addition, knowing of the loss of important official documents and email belonging to Lois Lerner, somebody decided that, rather than save the tapes in case they were ever needed for, say, a Congressional investigation, gosh darn it, they’d just follow their regular procedure and write over them!
4. Six other government employees whose email might shed light on this critical period and the potential for an inter-agency conspiracy also suffered convenient computer crashes. Presumably, contrary to law and policy, they also did not back up their email to any hard drive, thumb drive, CD, DVD, tape, or “cloud”, or print it out. Such a cabal of incompetents!
5. The email supplied to the Senate “documenting” this so-called computer crash came in the form of pages within a PDF. We’re to believe that these pages are accurate representations of contemporaneous email proving that the crash occurred as narrated. (“Stuff just happens!”) Does the House committee realize that PDFs are able to be edited? Any email can be copied into a file and edited. Was this “update” to the Senate in response to a subpoena? In other words, can heads roll if the email turns out to be bogus or misleading (as in, obstruction of Congress)? The House committee should subpoena the source backup tapes and have them examined forensically. What a tangled web they weave.
6. Believe it! It’s merely another coincidence that Sonasoft, the company with whom the IRS did contract to archive email, saw their contract expire right after Lerner’s laptop crashed. Does anyone know (did they ask?) what happened to the email archives Sonasoft had? Or to any hardware used by the IRS that was supplied by Sonasoft?
About a BSoD: It’s easy to obfuscate a subject like laptop crashes because many people are technically naive or simply afraid of technology. I’m no personal computer expert and yet I restored a laptop after a BSoD. The information about how to do it is out there on the Web. You need only know how to search for it, how to read and comprehend it, and how to follow instructions. When the alternative is trashing your computer, what do you have to lose?
A BSoD doesn’t necessarily mean that the hard drive is toast. Sometimes, for example, the problem is in the software program that passes information between the hard drive and the operating system. If the problem is with a software program, like a driver, then obviously other data is still there on the hard drive. For example, if you tear the index or appendix out of a book, then it’s hard to find something, but the “something” is still there in the book.
Sometimes, a virus or a Trojan has deliberately screwed things up so that the operating system can’t find the information that’s still there on the hard drive, or so that the computer won’t boot up. For example, some Trojans move (or remove or corrupt) the software that controls booting up. The computer will act as if it’s toast, but it’s not. If there’s a recovery disk (which surely every government computer IT Dept. requires) then the computer and its data can be restored.
Sometimes, however, the problem is mechanical, such as the thingamabob that moves to and reads the part of the disk where data is stored gets jammed. That doesn’t mean, however, that the data is gone. It just means that the equipment can’t go to the right spot to read it. The hard disk with the data on it is still there. IT people who know what they’re doing can get the information off those disks. In fact, that’s exactly what criminal forensic investigators do.
This scandal is not going away. Attorney Cleta Mitchell has a lawsuit pending against the IRS. She represents “True the Vote”, a group targeted by the IRS. Lois Lerner’s email would obviously become evidence in that case and should have been preserved. The IRS, upon “learning” of the crashed hard drive and lost email, did not notify Ms. Mitchell or the court of the loss of evidence. (Probably because the data lost in this so-called BSoD event was not evidence for any court, being Lerner’s personal files and a smoke screen.)
Similarly, Judicial Watch has a pending lawsuit against the IRS. They also were not apprised of the missing email, nor was the court:
Internal Revenue Service officials will have to explain to a federal judge July 10 why the tax agency didn’t inform the court that Lois Lerner‘s emails had been lost.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Emmett G. Sullivan quickly granted a motion filed earlier today by attorneys for Judicial Watch seeking a courtroom status conference “as soon as possible to discuss the IRS’s failure to fulfill its duties to this court under the law, as well as other ramifications of this lawsuit.”
In its motion, the non-profit watchdog noted that the IRS publicly acknowledged loss of Lerner emails to and from individuals outside of the agency early in February 2014.
Then on Feb. 26, the tax agency provided its first production of documents in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in October 2013.
No mention was made in that production of the lost Lerner emails, even though the original Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit filed in May 2013 specifically sought them.
Judicial Watch further noted that “although IRS had knowledge of the missing Lois Lerner emails and of the other IRS officials, it materially omitted any mention of the missing records” in an April 30 status update on its document production. …
We need a special prosecutor. That’s obvious, but it’s not going to happen until this current crew is out of the Senate and maybe not even then.
Postcript: When I began writing this post the day Lerner’s lawyer spoke out, I searched the Web to see what more-PC-savvy folks were saying about her little BSoBS. I saw little, but attributed it to the fact that the lawyer mentioned this in a TV interview and wasn’t yet quoted much in print. I looked again just now and found some references to Lerner’s alleged “blue screen of death.” This link has interesting comments, some excerpted below, with emphasis added:
DallasAG 94 said: “… The BSoD is a software issue with the OS… not a hardware failure. It is likely a conflict of memory, in which the OS wrote over something in RAM. What do you do? You reboot, and 99% of the time it is fine. Worst case scenario… your OS has to be restored, but the integrity of the hard drive remains relatively fine. …”
Ich76 said: “I suffered a blue screen of death event last weekend. Still haven’t even replaced the hard drive on that computer. I have accessed my email account from four other computers since then. Everything is there….but y’all already knew that. …”
kb2001 said: “… This is all besides the point. Policy requires copies of every email she sends/receives to be backed up, even paper copies in a lot of cases. There is a crime one way or the other, and everybody knows it. Obstruction or destruction of evidence is far easier for them to deal with than the charges that would come from using the IRS as a political weapon.”
conspiracy ag said: “My work computer wouldn’t boot, just blue screened when I tried to turn it on, corporate … was ready to just wipe it and reinstall windows, and I work for a HUGE company.”
Then dlance responded: “because your [data] is stored on huge SANs in your company’s data center(s). Just like .gov’s stuff is.
That is why this whole thing is such a farce.”