In an article Sunday from CNN’s Political Ticker by Sara Fischer, the IRS has claimed that it is unable to recover subpoenaed emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner. The reason given is a “computer crash.”
A firestorm has erupted in the media and many are calling it a “cover up,” alleging the crash is “convenient” for President Obama’s administration.
Anyone who works on a daily basis with the IRS, like I do, knows that the IRS is very particular about email and computers in general. With emails, specifically, the IRS has very stringent policies. Most of the policies, I believe, center around privacy rules – which is important.
But it is very hard for me to believe that Lois Lerner’s emails were lost because her computer crashed.
In this day and age, large organizations do not keep emails saved on individual computers. Instead, they are saved on large servers that are regularly backed up to provide needed security and prevent that information from getting lost.
If the IRS is working without basic safeguards, that is a problem in and of itself. It is just not good business practice. For an organization as large and as important as the IRS, it must function properly. Anything else is deplorable.
If the “failure” to provide the emails is more sinister – meaning either Ms. Lerner or the IRS have concocted a story of a computer crash on purpose – then an investigation is necessary. If true, then Ms. Lerner or the IRS should be concerned about a criminal investigation (See 2 U.S.C 192 and 194).
A taxpayer in a civil or criminal examination before the IRS would not be cut much slack. Undoubtedly they would be subject to a myriad of penalties.
Bottom line is any organization that can punish its citizens either through the civil examination process or through criminal investigations needs to be transparent and above-board with its own behavior. Anything else would be hypocritical and unfair.