Lerner’s BlackBerry: Is There a Scandal?

by Eliana Johnson

There’s nothing scandalous about the IRS’s discarding the BlackBerry of disgraced official Lois Lerner, says an agency IT official.

He tells me that “personal folders” — that is, e-mails moved from the IRS server to the hard drive of a user’s computer — are rarely synchronized with BlackBerry devices. It is the e-mails in the personal folders that the agency claims were lost forever when Lerner’s hard drive crashed in June 2011. The rest of her files were, of course, backed up on the server.

“If her personal folders had existed on her BlackBerry,” says the source, IT employees “wouldn’t have been jumping through all the hoops to recover data from the drive.” Those “hoops,” he says, include consultation with forensic technologists in the agency’s criminal-investigation division.

That was done not because Lerner was the subject of a congressional investigation — in fact, though the House Oversight Committee had begun to ask questions about the agency’s targeting of conservative groups in February 2012, there was no formal investigation underway when her device was tossed in June — but because she was “a big shot” and an official at the deputy-commissioner level demanded that IT officials go to great lengths to recover her information anyway.

So, based on the account of one IRS insider with knowledge of the agency’s IT procedures, Lerner and her various devices were getting special treatment, but not the sort that so many media accounts have broadcast.

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