IRS admits the “lost” Lerner emails

In the era of digital permanence, where terabytes of texts, emails and communications are automatically saved onto cloud servers and backed up via multiple redundant outlets, the IRS is claiming that thousands of critical emails in the investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing at the agency have been “lost.”  The assertion is comically absurd – after all, the government, which by many accounts is or has actively monitored millions of communications a year via the NSA, is simultaneously claiming that critical emails between principal subjects of the inquiry are now missing.  This week, the IRS commissioner admitted in Congressional testimony that the agency did not save the emails on Ms. Lerner’s blackberry, and it has no way of obtaining the information contained therein.  It would seem that federal officials are able to monitor all communications in America except their own. 130521_lois_lerner_2_328_js_605

Recall that this episode initially began with the surprise announcement last year that the IRS had inappropriately targeted conservative groups with increased scrutiny, as well as delayed their non-profit approval status, in an effort to limit the influence of their voice in the arena of public opinion.  After admitting its mistake, which by many accounts borders on the criminal, the IRS is now losing the public’s trust to an even greater degree.

One would naturally assume that the IRS must have some backup mechanism in place in order to protect critical information.  Mysteriously, however, the backup mechanism has also failed to yield the aforementioned communications.  If the backup truly failed, the next logical step would be to assume that the recipients of the email communications of the target individual could be collected to piece together at least a large portion of the relevant communications.  After all, there should be two copies of every email communication; one from the sender, and one for the recipient.  Surely, many subordinates and direct reports would have substantial communications with the relevant individuals which would help investigators piece together whether any criminal wrongdoing occurred.  It appears, however, that even this method is running into brick walls.

The IRS recently revealed that the emails of five key IRS officials, including an aide to Ms. Lerner, have also been “lost.”  The announcement comes after a key correspondence between Ms. Lerner and an IRS IT employee has been produced, in which Ms. Lerner asked if text messages are automatically backed up on IRS servers.  When the employee responded in the negative, she replied, “Perfect.”  One can logically deduce that Ms. Lerner did not want the contents of her communications to be revealed to the public.

Ms. Lerner, an agent held with the public trust in the collection of hard working taxpayer dollars, is hiding something.   The IRS needs to find this critical information.  The public needs to keep up sufficient pressure to ensure that the communications are located.

One need only imagine the scenario in reverse to ascertain how absurd the government’s position is in this matter.   Assume the IRS conducts a routine audit of an individual or private business (just recently, the Breitbart News, a well known conservative media outlet, announced that it is being audited by the IRS).  Certain records regarding business expenditures and other tax efficient write-offs are accidentally “misplaced” by the entity being audited.  Then the business or individual argues to the IRS that the relevant documents cannot be located.  The IRS would have little empathy in such a scenario, and the taxpayer would almost certainly lose the tax exemptions he or she was originally claiming.

It has long been said in America that no man or woman, including the President of the United States, is above the law.  Let us see whether the same can be said for the IRS.  So far, their silence and “missing” emails speaks volumes.

Ben Everard is a contributor to

Condoleezza’s Insights Will Be Missed at Rutgers

“I am honored to have served my country.  I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas.”  These are the words of Condoleezza Rice in her recent statement declining an invitation to speak at the commencement ceremony for graduating seniors at Rutgers University, due to protests from a small, but vocal, group of faculty and students.

It is unfortunate that select students and faculty at Rutgers are so enamored with a narrow perspective on life that it renders them incapable of considering the viewpoint of an individual mindful of a different angle.  The free exchange of ideas, so universally respected in American campuses, is seemingly limited to the free exchange of thoughts deemed progressive or liberal.  To some, the voice of a conservative is not deemed worthy of admission at a graduation ceremony.  Though unfortunate for its representation of narrow-minded academia run amuck, the greater injustice is to the graduating seniors themselves, who miss out on an opportunity to listen to the words of a historical figure in American history.  Condoleezza Rice, a woman of immense and diverse talents, would undoubtedly provide the graduating seniors with useful words of wisdom.

For instance, she might offer insights into the importance of the arts or athletics for a well-rounded individual – a relevant topic for Rice given her background as a renowned concert pianist and the fact that she was the first female entrant into the nation’s most prestigious golf club, Augusta National.  Additionally a former Board of Trustee member for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Rice has also performed music publicly with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, one of the great cellists of our time.  Her years of classical training and experience with the high arts give her authority to speak on the topic.

Alternatively, she could offer her thoughts on the significance of higher education and the need to sharpen one’s mind throughout every stage of life.   Her tenure as a professor for over 30 years at one of the world’s premier institutions, Stanford University, might provide some appropriate perspective for this topic.  She might also add insights on the role of academia by discussing her position within the university’s administration, in which she served as the first female, first minority and youngest Provost in the history of Stanford.

Perhaps she might provide unique insights into a relevant issue of the day, such as the unfolding situation in Ukraine and Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea.  After all, she studied at Moscow State University in 1979 and has a Ph.D.  in political science, with a particular expertise in Russian and former Soviet affairs.  It was her expertise in this area that was the catalyst for her foray into public service, which would likely interest a few of the graduating seniors.  Speaking of public service, many students would welcome Rice’s thoughts as to how she was able to overcome the anger and despair of growing up in racially segregated Alabama to eventually become the first female African American Secretary of State in the history of the United States.

Or Rice could alternatively inform the students that one’s perspective on life is capable of evolving over time.  For instance, she could tell the story of a woman who viewed the world through a lens of inexperience and idealism in the late 1970s and called herself a Democrat.  Dissatisfaction with Democratic foreign policy in the late 70s and early 80s in part led her to become a Republican.  Rising within the ranks of the Republican party, she would go on to speak at the 2000 Republican National Convention.  There, she would tell the Convention that, “my father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote.  The Republicans did.”

Rather than discussing her own experiences, she could sum up an overall message that a student’s perspective on life, particularly at the age of 22, is limited and subject to change.  She might quote single line from Hamlet, one of the most famous books in the English language: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Instead, the Rutgers students who successfully lobbied for Rice to drop herself as commencement speaker will continue to view the world from a particular, limited vantage point.  Perhaps one day, that perspective will change.

(Ben Everard is a contributor to California Political Review. Originally published on California Political Review.)

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