IRS scandal: e-mails do exist

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service, the federal income tax authority
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The IRS scandal made the news again yesterday. Now the IRS admits the “missing” e-mails still exist, and Lois Lerner did not lose them forever as she said. But the IRS now makes another excuse for not giving those e-mails to a judge. And as ever, no one looks at the worst part of the IRS scandal: whether any branch of government can investigate itself.

Missing e-mails found

The news broke from the case of Judicial Watch v. IRS, in the court of U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. Yesterday (August 25), Judicial Watch told the press what IRS attorneys admitted to them:

Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.

Judge Sullivan tries the IRS in his court.

Emmet G. Sullivan, Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Photo courtesy of the court.

Thanks, Captain Obvious! Now why did Judicial Watch need to sue under the Freedom of Information Act to get the government to admit that?

Of course the government backs up its computer records! Not to mention that e-mail never disappears completely. Fault-tolerant servers receive all e-mail pieces and store them. The annals of white-collar crime hold example after example of e-mails that convict a person. The person who sent them, and the other party who received them, think e-mail disappears when they say “Delete.” But that does not happen. Servers don’t delete e-mail; they archive it. As a lot of people, cooling their heels in various minimum-security prisons, know only too well.

And the government now admits it has a server that holds this e-mail indefinitely.

Now consider what Lois Lerner, then head of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS, tried to sell. She said her own hard drive crashed, and took the e-mails with it. And for more than a year they stuck to that ridiculous story.

When Congress couldn’t get the IRS to change its story, Judicial Watch sued them. (Freedom Outpost has the latest.) Again, this should surprise no one. Partisan politics clouds everything the Obama administration does, and much of what Congress does. But it has not (yet) clouded what the courts do.

Or at least, not all of them. In case anyone wonders, Judge Sullivan has his B.A. and his J.D. from Howard University. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the District Court for the District of Columbia. This is his third in a long line of appointments to the federal and District of Columbia judiciaries. He got his first appointment from President Ronald W. Reagan. So if any such thing as a bipartisan judge exists, Emmet G. Sullivan is one such judge.

And Judge Sullivan seems to be very old-school about whether the government ought to tell the truth to the governed.

IRS playing games

The next question is: how high does the e-mail trail go? The IRS is playing games. They had to admit some government server backed up those e-mails. Now they want the court to believe it would be “too onerous” to search that archive.

Lay aside for a moment whether you could answer a subpoena duces tecum with a plea that “it would be too hard” to search the records in your attic. That’s what this government archive is: a vast electronic “attic” of every document anyone made, in every office. If searching that is so hard, why even have that archive?

Consider only what the IRS wants to hide, and why. Lois Lerner ran a scheme to shut the Tea Party and other Patriot groups out of the Election of 2012. She did so not only willingly but wilfully. Now: did she do that on her own? Or did the White House tell her to? Why did the permanent Commissioner of Internal Revenue at the time make so many White House visits?

We know whom the crime would profit. We are now a step closer to showing someone did a crime, and maybe who ordered it.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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