The mysterious disappearance of IRS emails

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Washington lawmakers want the IRS to produce emails that could show the agency illegally targeted people tied to conservative political groups.

IRS officials say the emails are lost, and cannot be retrieved.

“Why should anyone believe you?” Rep. Kevin Brady, (R) Texas asked

“I don’t believe you!” Rep. Paul Ryan, (R) Wisconsin said.

Start back in 2010: IRS officials now admit that’s when they were giving special scrutiny to requests from the Tea Party and other conservatives for tax exempt status which was routinely granted to others.

By 2011, conservatives were complaining, especially about Lois Lerner, the boss in charge of that division.

Republican congressional investigators suspect she wrote emails about the matter, but she won’t talk and the IRS says her hard drive crashed later that year taking with it the only copies of an unknown number of messages.

And the IRS says at least a half dozen other computers crashed, too. Possible? “Maybe” say cyber-security experts like Bryan Cunningham.

“But it is very hard to believe that that there would have been no recoverable data and it would have happened on so many different computers in the same investigation,” Cunningham said.

Computers may stop functioning, some data may be lost, but those little electronic messages written on the surface have a stubborn way of hanging on.

“And even drives that have been burned, soaked in water, that have been damaged visually beyond all repair competent engineers can still recover meaningful amounts of data from them,” Cunningham explains.

So why not re-examine Lerner’s drive now?

Too late. The IRS says it was destroyed.

What about a backup file?

The IRS had one when all this happened, but it was a tape system that was erased every six months. So by 2012 the lost emails were gone, even though it took until this year for the IRS to tell Congress, spurring even more suspicion.

“Did Lois Lerner preemptively crash her hard drive?” Rep. Jim McDermott, (D) Washington asked.

“All the evidence is to the contrary,” John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner responded.

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