Thursday, June 19, 2014

Amazing...But Not Surprising

That was then.
This is now.
Daniel Henninger writing in today's Wall Street Journal.

The IRS tea-party audit story isn't Watergate; it's worse than Watergate.
The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.
The Worse-Than-Watergate IRS scandal worsened last Friday with the news that the agency made an astonishingly crude and blatant attempt to cover up evidence of its criminal activity along with evidence of the complicity of the White House and Congressional Democrats. That crucial Lois Lerner e-mails were destroyed when her computer "crashed" is eerily reminiscent of the 18 and a half minute gap in Richard Nixon's recorded conversations that so infuriated Democrats during the Watergate affair. Peggy Noonan notes the contrast in the reactions to the two events.

...what is amazing—not surprising, but amazing—is that if my experience of normal human conversation the past few days is any guide, very few people are talking about it and almost no one cares. 
...(I)f you can’t see the relation between a strangely destroyed key piece of evidence in an ongoing scandal and what happened 41 years ago with a strangely destroyed key piece of evidence in an ongoing scandal, something is wrong not with the story but with your news judgment.

Jonah Goldberg has also noticed the mainstream media's remarkable lack of interest in the story.

So now the IRS claims that a computer crash has irrevocably erased pertinent e-mails (an excuse I will remember when I am audited). National Review’s John Fund reports that the IRS manual says backups must exist. If e-mails — which exist on servers, clouds, and elsewhere — can be destroyed this way, someone should tell the NSA that there’s a cheaper way to encrypt data.

The storied City News Bureau of Chicago famously lived by the motto “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” The bureau closed down several years ago. Perhaps that kind of skepticism died with it.
(Fund's article is here).
Other relevant data has "disappeared". Eliana Johnson (NRO) explains
It’s not just Lois Lerner’s e-mails. The Internal Revenue Service says it can’t produce e-mails from six more employees involved in the targeting of conservative groups, according to two Republicans investigating the scandal.
The IRS recently informed Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp and subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany that computer crashes resulted in additional lost e-mails, including from Nikole Flax, the chief of staff to former IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who was fired in the wake of the targeting scandal.
...If Lerner is the central figure in the scandal — Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa said Monday evening he believes she was the senior-most official involved — Flax may be an important auxiliary figure. E-mails produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the group Judicial Watch show Flax giving the green light to Lerner’s request to meet with Department of Justice officials to explore the possibility of criminally prosecuting nonprofit groups — at the suggestion of Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse — for engaging in political activity after declaring on their application for nonprofit status that they had no plans to do so.

In a scathing piece, National Review Editors mock the claim that the e-mails are lost forever.

It is very difficult to permanently destroy an e-mail even if you are trying to do so. The proposition that a few hard-drive crashes, which conveniently afflicted the computers of those involved in the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, would permanently wipe out those e-mails beyond recovery beggars belief. Half the strip malls in this country have electronics stores that will, for a fee, recover information from a damaged hard drive. Assuming that the drive in question was not, say, smashed to bits with a sledgehammer and then nuked in a microwave, the information on it should be recoverable.

Beyond that, e-mail is a network function; copies of communications are generally available from multiple locations. It is not an IRS e-mail server that is alleged to have crashed, but the individual computer used by Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS unit responsible for tax-exempt organizations and is at the center of the agency’s campaign of harassment and intimidation of conservative groups. The IRS claims that it wipes its servers clean every six months and that its backup method is — and we are not making this up — having employees print out their e-mails for filing. The missing e-mails from Lerner run to about 50,000, and the IRS has nearly 90,000 employees — is the agency really filing away 4.5 billion printouts every other year? Perhaps in a federal warehouse like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

And beyond that, the IRS has a legal obligation to retain e-mails and other documents, and it is difficult to take seriously the proposition that fulfilling that legal obligation would be left to chance. In earlier congressional testimony, former IRS commissioner John Koskinen confirmed that agency e-mails are stored on backup servers.

...The matter at hand is a serious one. While IRS employees were openly campaigning for Barack Obama on agency time — a violation for which a handful were given largely symbolic reprimands — the very branch of that awesomely powerful law-enforcement agency charged with handling the affairs of nonprofit and tax-exempt groups was illegally targeting organizations based on their political affiliations while Democratic elected officials, Michigan senator Carl Levin among them, hectored the agency to do more.

This was not a lapse in judgment or a series of unfortunate events. This was an organized campaign to use IRS resources — including its ability to launch criminal prosecutions — for political purposes.

...We have no doubt that Lois Lerner’s hard drive has in fact been compromised. We’d be shocked if it hadn’t been. Goodness knows what else is being done with evidence while Congress proceeds at its customary majestic pace. The question here is not only the crime that has been committed but whether there is a crime in progress.

Mona Charen enlists the expertise of an experienced data retriever to dispute the IRS' claim.
John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog was blunt: “The Obama administration is lying, and lying in a remarkably transparent way.” Hinderaker, a practicing attorney, uses discovery to retrieve e-mails on a regular basis. E-mails are stored on a server. A crash of the user’s hard drive would be irrelevant. “Further, e-mails are universally backed up in some other medium, often electronic tape, for long-term storage. Thus, even if an e-mail server is destroyed, or all e-mails are deleted from a server after a specified length of time, the e-mails are still recoverable from back-up storage media.” The IRS, along with all other government agencies, uses such a system.

Sharyl Attkisson is the intrepid former CBS News reporter who left that outfit when she became frustrated by its lack of enthusiasm for her investigations into the Obama administration's various scandals. (In a striking example of the corruption of the mainstream media, the head of CBS News, David Rhodes, is the brother of Senior White House advisor Ben Rhodes. The latter Rhodes was Susan Rice's notorious coach, prepping her to lie on Sunday news shows following the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack. No wonder Attkisson was dissuaded from reporting on that scandal).
On her website, Attkisson presents a list of issues for the IRS to address.

    In light of the disclosure, these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:

Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.

Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.

Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.

Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?

Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?

Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.

Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.

Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.

I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably

The IRS cover up extends beyond fabricating laughably implausible explanations for missing evidence. Much of the obstruction involves dissembling and delaying. The following is from a Wall Street Journal editorial.

There's an equally disturbing IRS confession contained in its Friday letter to Congress. Some history: House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as early as June 4, 2013 asked the IRS to provide "all documents and communications sent by, received by, or copied to Lois Lerner" between Jan. 1, 2009 and the present." Note the "all."
Mr. Issa sent an official subpoena demanding "all" the records in August 2013, and another subpoena reiterating the "all" demand in February 2014. Former Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel in August of 2013 told Congress, under oath, that the IRS was "reviewing every one of Lois Lerner's emails, and providing the response." Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in February told Congress, under oath, that the IRS was sending all of Ms. Lerner's emails. 

Yet in its letter on Friday the IRS slipped in the following: "In early 2014, Chairmen Camp and Issa reiterated their requests for all of Lois Lerner's email, regardless of subject matter . . . Fulfilling the request," said the IRS, meant it had to compile Lerner emails that went beyond the "search terms" it had "originally loaded for review." By mid-March, the agency admitted, it had produced for Congress only the Lerner emails that it—the IRS—considered "related" to the scandal. 

In other words, the IRS has from the start been picking and choosing which of Ms. Lerner's emails it deigned to show Congress. And it did so despite knowing that Congress wanted everything.

This IRS filter has delayed the investigation and denied Congress access to important information. Congressional investigators learned only last week that Ms. Lerner corresponded with the Justice Department about potentially prosecuting conservative nonprofits. Congress had to subpoena Justice to obtain that Lerner correspondence. Only after Congress demanded the IRS explain why it hadn't provided this Lerner-Justice correspondence did the IRS suddenly confess in its Friday letter that it had been picking and choosing emails.

And now we get the disappearance of seven hard drives. Ms. Lerner's hard drive, by the way, appears to have "crashed" in June 2011, not long after Mr. Camp first asked the IRS if there was any political targeting going on. She denied it. Mr. Koskinen is due to testify before Congress on Friday, and he's got a lot to answer for.

Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith (WSJ, 2/26/2014) pieced together a timeline detailing the prompts and threats from President Obama and Congressional Democrats spurring the IRS to monitor and pressure conservative advocacy groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.

Smith concludes with an historical analogy.

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

Smith's article describes the overt pressure put on the IRS by Democrats. The full extent of more secretive coordination between the IRS and self interested politicians has yet to be determined.
E-mails obtained by the activist watchdog group Judicial Watch show that, at a minimum, Lois Lerner corresponded with the Department of Justice and a U.S. congressman regarding conservative groups' 501 (c)(4) requests. She contacted the DOJ seeking grounds to prosecute tax exempt status applicants.

From Judicial Watch --

“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal. No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”

Was there a follow-up to Lerner's consultation with the DOJ? Sure was. It was revealed this week that the IRS, days before the 2010 election, shipped a 1.1 million page database about tax-exempt groups to the FBI.

The Wall Street Journal explains the impropriety of this action.

How out of bounds was this data dump? Consider the usual procedure. The IRS is charged with granting tax-exempt status to social-welfare organizations that spend less than 50% of their resources on politics. If the IRS believes a group has violated those rules, it can assign an agent to investigate and revoke its tax-exempt status. This routinely happens and isn't a criminal offense.
Ms. Lerner, by contrast, shipped a database of 12,000 nonprofit tax returns to the FBI, the investigating agency for Justice's Criminal Division. The IRS, in other words, was inviting Justice to engage in a fishing expedition, and inviting people not even licensed to fish in that pond. The Criminal Division (rather than the Tax Division) investigates and prosecutes under the Internal Revenue Code only when the crimes involve IRS personnel.                                                       
Lerner was also passing along information about the conservative group True The Vote to Elijah Cummings, in charge of running interference for Obama at the House Oversight Committee. Cummings lied that he had had no contact with Lerner. 

Additional evidence of the Obama White House working with the IRS to hinder opposition groups in the run up to the 2012 election is sure to be found in the "lost" e-mails.

And the press? Except for Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, (both owned by the blessed News Corp), and the rare principled reporter like Attkisson, there is no serious investigation of the story. Charen writes, "The New York Times made just a glancing mention on its website a few days (after the missing e-mail story broke). The Washington Post ran only an AP story." Got that? There's far more information contained in this lousy blog post about a major news story than in two of the most (undeservedly) prestigious papers in the country.

Imagine an alternative scenario. Substitute the Bush administration for Obama's and shift the timeframe back to 2006-2008. A New York Times headline would look something like this.



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