IRS’s Blanket Denial About Lerner’s Computer Access False, Documents Show

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a broad denial in response to National Review Online’s report that Lois Lerner’s computer network access has not been restricted since she was placed on administrative leave on May 23, and that she logged into the IRS’s computer system using her agency-issued laptop as recently as June 4. IRS spokesman Dean Patterson told National Review Online that while privacy rules prohibit the agency from commenting on Lerner’s case, “the IRS ensures that employees placed on administrative leave pending resolution of a personnel matter would not have access to IRS computer systems” and that ”these employees would also relinquish IRS equipment, including computers and BlackBerrys.”

National Review Online, however, has obtained documents that show the agency laptop issued to her — identifiable by the machine name and the barcode assigned to it — was used to access the IRS computer system using her user ID as recently as June 4, twelve days after she was placed on leave after refusing to tender her resignation. Unless somebody else was accessing the system using Lerner’s laptop and user name, it was in fact Lerner who accessed the system. The documents also indicate, according to the source, that Lerner has accessed the IRS system on 79 of the last 90 days, and retains access to all of the information that was available to her while she served as the director of the agency’s Exempt Organizations division, which oversaw the targeting of tea-party groups between 2010 and 2012. 

Through the access granted to her as the director of Exempt Organizations, Lerner can access private taxpayer data, although there is no way to know if she has. An IRS source tells National Review Online that her laptop has not been wiped since she was placed on leave, and that “in addition to access of the databases, her computer should have all taxpayer data removed manually or wiped and reimaged.” The source says that laptops and other agency computers are routinely wiped even when employees transfer between divisions in order to protect the integrity of taxpayer data, though this has not occurred in Lerner’s case. 

Given her previous duties, it is likely that her laptop contains e-mails and other documents that include such information. Federal law prohibits any employee whose duties do not require them to deal with taxpayers to access such data; presumably, while on leave, Lerner has no official duties and accessing such data would constitute a federal crime. 

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