IRS employees received an e-mail earlier today warning, “URGENT: Do not wipe laptops/desktops.” It is an indication that the inspector general’s office is conducting a new investigation into the besieged agency, after it released a report this week. “We have been instructed not to wipe any T[ax] E[xempt] G[overnment] E[ntity] systems,” the e-mail advised.
The ageny is in the process of “copying every hard drive in TEGE across the IRS,” an IRS employee who asked not to be named tells National Review Online, in order to preserve “all the data on every hard drive that TEGE employees use.”
The TEGE division, responsible for granting tax-exempt status to 501(c)(4) groups, was the subject of the inspector general’s report released yesterday, which found employees in the division had unfairly scrutinized conservative groups. According to the source, the data preservation is related to a new IG investigation, this one targeting individual agency employees. The source could not confirm that the new investigation is related to the charges leveled in yesterday’s IG report, but if it is, it could lead the inspector general’s to identify the employees at fault and result in their prosecution.
The investigation that produced yesterday’s report was an audit that did not focus on the actions of particular individuals, and vaguely attributed malfeasance to poor management – “they were looking at how something happened and why it happened,” the source says — but the new investigation could lead to more specific charges. “If the inspector general is doing an audit process and they ask you questions and they think you’re lying, they send the badge and gun guys to talk to you,” he explains. (The liberal watchdog group ProPublica said this week that IRS officials had leaked to them the confidential applications of nine conservative groups, confirming that IRS employees have engaged in criminal behavior.)
The investigation into the actions of individual employees began several weeks ago, according to the source, and data preservation started in the Cincinnati office, the same one charged with improperly targeting conservative groups. All recovered data will be uploaded to a restricted-access server designated for data recovery, where only investigators will be able to make use of it.