Lois Lerner and the paleolithic IRS email backup system


Lois Lerner’s 2011 emails were almost certainly lost due to a hard disk crash and prehistoric backup procedures, not malice. IRS email server backup tapes were routinely overwritten every six months in 2011. IRS employees are allowed just 6,000 emails on the server now, it was a tiny 1,800 in 2011. Employees backup important emails manually on their laptops. The hard drive on Lerner’s laptop crashed, destroying her archived emails. The server backup tapes had already been overwritten.

Whether or not it’s the truth, experts agree the data loss is plausible, and that points to continued reliance on outdated systems, and not just at IRS.

“Obviously, there are agencies in the federal government that still run fairly antiquated email systems and other IT systems,” Hettinger said. “It’s an interesting window into how far we still have to go despite all the progress we have made in implementing new technology.”

The IRS is not able to upgrade their systems because funding has been slashed so severely. They are hardly the only government agency with such problems.

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