Readers School Politico on 'Missing' IRS Emails

June 21st, 2014 3:35 PM

The emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials are gone forever. Therefore any more complaints about it are nothing but Republican nitpicking. Case closed.

That pretty much sums up the attitude of Politico writer Rachael Bade whose Wednesday article title pretty much sums up what she portrays as the futility of any more investigation into retrieving those missing emails, "Sources: Lois Lerner’s emails likely gone forever." Got that? Or so she seems to hope. However, her writing off the possibility of ever finding those emails elicited a tidal wave of response from Politico readers with over 21,000 comments, many of which begged to differ with her hasty conclusion. First let us read Ms Bade hopefully bid goodbye forever on the chances of IRS email recovery:

Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s crashed hard drive has been recycled, making it likely the lost emails of the lightning rod in the tea party targeting controversy will never be found, according to multiple sources.

Multiple sources that never heard of backup servers? Anyway, let us permit Ms Bade to continue her funeral sermon for the undead:

The latest news suggests such professionals may never get the chance to try again — and the IRS has even said its criminal investigators who specialize in rebuilding hard drives to recover hidden information from criminals were unable to restore the data back in 2011. But this is only likely to further enrage Republicans, who are fuming over the matter and suspect Washington officials drove the selective scrutiny.

And I bet those criminal investigators tried really, really hard.

The IRS told congressional investigators on Friday that the emails of Lerner, the former head of the tax exempt division that was found to have singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny, were lost from 2009 to 2011 in a computer hard drive crash in early summer 2011.

Dog ate the homework. Very convenient. Well, Ms Bade seems to accept that excuse and the fact that the emails are "lost" forever but her readers beg to differ in a big way:

Lois Lerner's emails can probably be retrieved another way, even though her computer supposedly crashed. Just find out what company the IRS contracted to service their technical support. (GAO knows the answer to that.) Ask that company if they were required to back up her computer and/or emails or not. That company can tell you if they have the missing emails.

Most large corporate and government entities keep backups possibly forever. Been in this business a long time, contracting for both. Both corporate and government user emails are archived or mandated to archive if the size reaches whatever limit set by their exchange (or other email) servers. In addition, periodic backups of all servers (most weekly, some more often) would mean there are redundant offsite backups, hundreds (thousands if incremental).

The government email systems are comprised of multiple data centers. The data itself is stored in RAID arrays (meaning the data is written across multiple hard drives so it can be recovered if any single drive fails). Most likely RAID 6 is utilized meaning that up to two hard drives can fail and the data is still recoverable. There are MULTIPLE RAID 6 clusters controlled by a controller. There are also clusters of drives that their sole purpose is to instantly take on the role of a failing drive within a RAID array until the failing drive can be physically replaced by a human.

The informed skepticism of these readers is bolstered by the observations of William A. Routt of the American Thinker who declared that The Lost IRS E-mails Exist!

I have been listening all week to TV pundits lamenting that Lois Lerner’s hard drive has been destroyed, and therefore her e-mails are lost. This is simply not the case. I never cease to be amazed at the lack of understanding of how the e-mail system works.

When you write an e-mail, it goes to your server to be sent to the person you e-mailed. Your server keeps a copy of that e-mail, and of all your e-mails – sent and received. When you create all the folders in your e-mail program that you use to save e-mails in...these are also stored on your server. I use MSN, so my server is an MSN server. My wife uses Gmail, so her server is a Google server. These servers are large machines, and they most often run the Unix operating system.

I have been using and working with Unix basically since its creation at Bell Labs in the '60s. Unix has several features for doing regular backups – both incremental ones and full backups. On the Unix machine we used in one of my jobs, we created – automatically – daily incremental backups and once a week did a full backup. Back then, we did them to tape, and these tapes were then archived for future use if needed.


So where is the IRS server? Inquiring non-Politico minds would like to know. Well, an important update link on Routt's blog leads us to Thomas Lifson, also of the American Thinker, who reports:

Is that a smoking gun I smell? It turns out the IRS contracted with a company that provides email backup services starting in 2005. This first came to light in the Twitter feed of moregenr, who noticed that the IRS appears on the client list of email archiving service provider Sonasoft.

This was was picked up by Peter Suderman of Reason, who writes:

The IRS had a contract with email backup service vendor Sonasoft starting in 2005,according to, which lists the contract as being for "automatic data processing services." Sonasoft's motto is "email archiving done right," and the companylists the IRS as a customer.

Yes, the Politico readers as well as "pajama-clad" bloggers went where Politico neglected to tread. Of course, now that Rachael Bade has been informed on this matter we can expect that she will call up Sonasoft Monday morning and ask them if the IRS emails in question can be obtained from their archives. Right Rachael? Are you there, Rachael?