The Corner

Just How Many E-mails Did the IRS Lose?

Just how many critical IRS e-mails, now sought by congressioanl investigators, are forever irretrievable?

The House Ways and Means Committee released a statement earlier this month announcing that, in addition to the tranche of Lois Lerner’s e-mails lost forever due to a hard-drive crash, the IRS was also unable to produce messages from six others involved in the targeting scandal.

Very quickly, though, lawmakers began to moderate that claim — they seemed not to be quite sure.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, in requesting e-mails between the IRS employees in question and the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and the Federal Election Commission, said, “We have learned that several other employees who are also custodians of records relevant to our investigation may have suffered similar computer malfunctions” (emphasis mine). The IRS, they said, “is still determining whether the other employees . . . suffered a loss of data comparable to Ms. Lerner’s, and if so, whether the agency has already taken measures to try to recover that data.”

At last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing, Massachusetts Democrat Stephen Lynch referred to “unfounded allegations about six other employees about their e-mails going missing,” and IRS commissioner John Koskinen agreed with his characterization.​

Spokesmen for both the Ways and Means Committee and Republicans on the Finance Committee were not forthcoming about what exactly the IRS told the committees about the nature of the employees’ data loss.

As it turns out, there are actually nine employees in question, and for at least six of those nine employees, according to a reliable source in the IRS’s IT department, no data at all was lost. The employees are: Nikole Flax, chief of staff to former acting commissioner Steven Miller; supervising public-affairs specialist Michelle Eldridge; revenue agents Kimberly Kitchens, Julie Chen, Nancy Heagney, and Mitchell Steele; supervisory revenue agent Tyler Chumney; technical adviser Justin Lowe; and senior manager David Fish.

The source says that Eldridge’s hard drive was replaced in March 2014 but no data was lost; Kitchens’s hard drive failed in June 2012 with no data lost; Chumney’s failing PC was replaced in December 2011, no data lost; Steele’s laptop was replaced due to a bad display in July 2012 and all data was transferred to a new laptop; Lowe’s laptop was replaced in December 2012 and, though a technician had to manually retrieve his files, all were restored to his new computer; and Fish’s laptop was replaced in October of 2011 and all data was transferred.


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