A few days have passed since my original post on the subject, and since then there are reports the emails from six more employees are missing. Let’s recap shall we?
I’m trying to keep it short and sweet, and the same facts apply to the six other employees who have “missing” emails.
First, do you really expect the government to be efficient and competent when it comes to IT infrastructure and document retention policies? Come on now! This is the federal government, specifically the IRS … they can screw up just about anything and everything!
The IRS – like many large companies – does not back up employee laptops or desktops. This is not unusual. They back up network drives, database infrastructures and mail servers. Prior to the May 2013 litigation hold, the IRS only kept six months of tape backups of email servers. The tapes were recycled and used again. It was the employee’s responsibility to determine which emails needed to be archived or printed when it came to document retention policy.
In 2011 it was not inexpensive to do a complete forensic reconstruction of a hard dive. It is still not easy or inexpensive. In my opinion, the IT staff was being kind to Lerner and making an active, but not emergency effort to recover “personal” documents as a favor. At that time there was no criminal investigation and no litigation hold on hardware or data. There was no reason to start an expensive effort to retrieve the data on the drive. I’m not saying it could not have been done, just the opposite really. It could be done, but the need at the time did not justify the cost. The drive was effectively tossed in the trash in August, 2011.
The IRS allowed employees to have an email box size of 500MB. To put that in perspective, that’s about 200 photos taken by your iPhone. I would expect IRS employees to frequently get “you’re running out of space” warnings, and they would be required to clean out their mailbox to save space on the server. Again, it is the employees responsibility to determine what emails need to be saved per document retention policy. The EASY way to do this is just archive all emails prior to a specified date. You can do this in Outlook easily. (File > Export to File and choose .pst file. Then choose filter and select a date range.)
When an employee “archives” email, that archive (Outlook PST file) is placed on the employees local computer by default. You can specify where the PST file is placed and the name of the PST file, but most people would just select the default location, which is not easy to find in the future.
As mentioned before, employee laptops and desktops are not backed up. For that file to be backed up, the employee would have to specify the PST file is created on a network dive, or would need to find the correct Outlook PST file and move or copy it to a network drive that is backed up. Lerner and any other IRS employees who did not move their PST archive files to a network drive would lose the data if their hard disc crashed.
- Lerner probably did not follow the rules when it came to document retention polices since she did not move the PST files to a network drive that was backed up. If the IRS policy was to just keep the PST files on a local computer, that’s just stupid. Employees should have been provided instructions on how to properly store those files so they are backed up. But again, leaving PST files on a local drive is not unusual.
- I find the explanation completely plausible. Please don’t use emotion to argue against my conclusion. Come up with facts. Don’t say “the emails are easily found on a server somewhere” when we know the IRS was only keeping six months of backups prior to May 2013.
- The emails certainly may exist at the other end of the communication. The people who sent email to Lerner and those who received emails just might have the emails on their computers or on the servers of other agencies. That’s going to take a long time to put that together. Get over it. But I’m certain there are a few federal government employees willing to take up the task … it’s guaranteed work for a couple of years.
- The Executive Branch, FBI, FEC and IRS email systems are all separate, so for the IT departments to coordinate and get everything put together could take years.
- I suspect the 24,000 emails dated between Jan.1, 2009 and April 2011 that were provided to the committee were internal IRS emails. Again, since the email systems are separate, it would be harder to get the emails sent to or from other agencies.
- We should have all of Lerner’s emails starting in mid-July, 2011 when her computer crashed. Do we?
- What was the IRS policy about archived PST files? Was their specific guidelines and checks in place to ensure employees moved those files to a network drive where they would be backed up?
Do you disagree with my conclusion? That’s cool. With the information that has been presented, please send me an email using the Contact page with your step-by-step explanation as to how you think this went down. No emotion, just make your case as to how it happened. I’ll publish your conclusion in a new post if it is plausible.