The IRS said it cannot locate many of Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year.
Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Republican congressional leaders were incensed.
"The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS's response to congressional inquiries," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the inspector general."
Guys, this cannot happen. Not because it's a bad thing to happen but because it's damn near impossible unless they are total and complete incompetents.
I have been in IT for 20 years. One of my specialties is Microsoft Exchange, which I have been working with since 1998. In Exchange 2007, 2010, and 2013, this is nearly impossible unless you are a complete idiot.
Let me explain. In Exchange, there are servers that hold your mailbox. Each mailbox is stored in a database called an Information Store. An information store can hold many or all the mailboxes but for say a 200 users organization, you would probably have about 5-10 stores. It really depends on how big you let the mailboxes get. You can put limits and quotas but typically organizations tend to just let the boxes grow. Keeping the stores around 100 gig is generally a good rule of thumb. Mailboxes get around 2-5 gigs for most users in businesses and government so 20-50 mailboxes is typical.
Now it is real easy (and pretty mandatory) to set up a second server and create synchronized copies of all the information stores. Every time you get an email, a copy of it created in the other store. Should the server crash, the other server would take over with generally little if any loss of data.
It is possible they have Exchange 2003. In that case, the information store usually set up on a SAN (Storage area network) and multiple servers can access the same store. If a server goes down, another takes over.
No IT administrator worth his salt would set up an exchange server without these safeguards, not in an organization as big as the IRS. It doesn't happen. Secondly, let's say all the servers crashed, it would destroy just Lois Lerner's emails? No it would destroy everyone's email.
Now let's talk about backup and archiving. Every one uses some sort of tape backup to move the email to tape. Then there is software like Source One
which archives every single mail ever sent. Which means, even if you delete an email from your mailbox, it's still there. These kind of systems are mandatory for financial firms, legal firms, etc. You gonna tell me the IRS doesn't have it? BS.
What they say is that Lois's workstation crashed and that's what lost the email. Email doesn't reside on the workstation. Could it? Could this happen? Yes, it is possible but it is so unlikely that it is nearly not worth talking about.
Email is always sent back and forth between servers using a protocol call SMTP. However email retrieval is a little different. In the early days and for many people using home email systems (hotmail, their ISP's email, GMAIL, etc.) they may use a protocol called POP3. POP3 will retrieve the email from the server and store it on the local machine. Once it's retrieved, it's deleted from the server.
However in Exchange systems, they use MAPI. This is a little different than POP3 in that it never removes the mail from the server. Exchange does more than email, it schedules appointments in a calendar, it creates tasks, it stores your contacts, and much more. Pop3 would make using the collaborative functions of Exchange useless.
So was Lois Lerner keeping her emails local? There are possibilities that she could have been, I can't say it's completely impossible. But to set up the circumstances so that this kind of failure could happen means that the technical staff at the IRS is completely incompetent, or the IRS is lying, committing fraud, and destroying evidence.
It's the latter. I'm telling you, they are criminally responsible and did it on purpose. There is no way the system is set up that badly for one person who just happens to be target of an investigation. It's too much to believe.