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Lois Lerner email: “we need to be cautious about what we say in emails”

Lois Lerner email: “we need to be cautious about what we say in emails”

Email incriminates Lerner in scheme to evade Congressional oversight — used unarchived instant messages

Darrell Issa has tweeted out an email exchange involving Lois Lerner in April 2013, in which she attempts to scope out what email records get retained, and cautions that because Congress may seek emails, “we need to be cautious about what we say in emails”. The full email exchange is at the bottom of this post.

This evidences a consciousness of guilt, even if somewhat after the fact of the harassment of conservative groups.

She’s also not the brightest bulb in the theater — if you are worried about saying incriminating things in emails because Congress may discover the emails, don’t talk about it in emails.

(Added) The Wall Street Journal focuses on the portion of the exchange suggesting that Emails Point to IRS Officials Using Instant Messages:

Lawmakers investigating the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of conservative groups released new emails Wednesday suggesting that top IRS officials communicated through an instant-messaging service that wasn’t routinely archived.

The revelation adds to lawmakers’ concerns about the agency’s handling of documents related to their current inquiry into the agency’s alleged targeting of conservative tea-party groups for burdensome scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status. Republicans already have criticized the IRS for losing about two years’ worth of emails that could be important to the probe, largely because a computer hard drive belonging to a former top IRS official, Lois Lerner, crashed in mid-2011. Backup tapes also were routinely reused after six months.

The latest emails suggest that IRS officials had a separate instant-messaging system that also wasn’t preserved.

Lois Lerner April 9 2013 Email re electronic records


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David in DC | July 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm

We have email training which includes cautions about not joking or using sarcasm when it could be taken the wrong way, cautions against speculating in email, etc. These sorts of things could be used to harmful effect if a hostile lawyer or media got ahold of them, even if they were clearly innocent on a common sense reading. Her message could be in a similar vein.

    I disagree that the email is in a similar vein to people joking. The email goes to the very heart of the intent to cause harm to certain groups of people.

    David in DC in reply to David in DC. | July 9, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I didn’t mean Lerner was joking. I meant she could have been cautioning against this kind of thing. There are many ways that language could be used carelessly that could get a person in a highly politicized situation in big trouble. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that or cautioning your people about it.

    Issa said that she intentionally tried to hide internal communications. The email exchange above isn’t enough to show that, because there is a very reasonable alternative explanation. I’m kind of surprised that Prof Jacobson went so far as to say email incriminates her in scheme to evade Congress. That’s way overstating what the exchange actually said, and not the usual sober and reasoned analysis we usually get from him.

    For the record I’m a big fan of Prof J and would love to see a smoking gun email like this, it’s just that this one isn’t it.

      ConradCA in reply to David in DC. | July 9, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      There is a big difference between someone training people to be aware of what they say in emails and Lerner telling her co-conspirators to be careful about what they said in emails. Furthermore, now that we know that she chose to destroy her emails for 2 years it is clear that she was obstructing justice.

      Radegunda in reply to David in DC. | July 10, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Since her concern is stated explicitly in the context of noting that Congress has been asking for emails, it’s reasonable to conclude that she didn’t want Congress to know what she was up to.

      It’s even more reasonable in light of other things we know, such as her taking the Fifth, the implausibly convenient “hard-disk crash,” and other statements revealing her political motives and her concern about not giving away the game.

      It isn’t very likely that she was simply worried that someone might not understand her wry wit.

      Your gloss on things is wrong – the idea that people have a need to be cautious about what they say and that people need to be cautious about what they put in emails because Congress might ask to see them.

      You are right that in either case this is not proof that Lois Lerner obstructed Congress by hiding or destroying emails. It is one part of a proof that she was aware of the various lines re obstructing Congress lie. Which of course we always knew.

      More important, Issa is doing us a good service by showing what Lois Lerner discussed.

        Voyager in reply to Guy. | July 10, 2014 at 9:30 am

        The issue I believe we run into is given that there has already been the hiding and destruction of evidence, she has forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

      David in DC in reply to David in DC. | July 10, 2014 at 6:19 am

      I don’t totally disagree with you guys. As you note, there is a pattern of behavior here. Some things, which are not overly compelling when taken alone, when taken together with a number of other observations make a good case.

      That said, at the point when she wrote this she:
      1) Knew she was under a lot of scrutiny from Congress, so it makes sense to say “We are under a lot of scrutiny from Congress, so be cautious.”
      2) Was writing about being cautious in email, IN EMAIL. Yeah, people do dumb things sometimes, but it seems too elementary a mistake to make if you were really paranoid and trying to hide something.

      Regarding asking the question about the IM application in the first place, think about your own work. There is always someone at the meeting who will ask “But what about…”. So someone asked about this IM in a meeting and Lerner said, I’ll follow up and get back to you. It does look at first glance like she is trying to do an end run around email, but can she really be that stupid. Would anyone here put something on your company’s IM app that you were afraid to put in email? Like you’d need to ask or even trust the answer?

      I’m in the pharmaceutical industry. Not a doctor or medical person. I get computer based trainings on using email that I mentioned above. In them, we are cautioned just like Lerner did. So consider — I am just emailing a colleague and speculating about whether an adverse event or death we saw in one of our trials, that it may be linked to our drug. This isn’t my field and I have no basis for saying so. It would be idle chit-chat, BUT a lawyer could grab that email and make a case “See, they knew that the drug was linked to deaths.” And it is not unusual to see pharmaceuticals get huge financial punishments for just this thing. Needless to say, we have an extremely strict email retention policy.

        In isolation your argument holds. However one day saying we have to be careful because congress looks at our email and then the next having all email disappear out of lack of concern for rules fails the smell test miserably.

        What tangled web they weave.

        Obama is a better liar, he says he’s an idiot and hears about all scandals from the press while feigning outrage, and based on how he runs the government in all other aspects, it’s a much easier whopper for American’s to stomach because he is so incredibly inept in all ways.

“we need to be cautious about what we say in emails”.

The only people who say such things are people who are knowingly doing something underhanded.

This is called “mens rea” in the criminal law classes I took.

This is another “badge of fraud”, or any kind of evidence showing that people were COGNIZANT of doing something that would raise questions of propriety.

When you worry about who might see something, people like me will screw you to the wall for doing it.

What is the distinction of OCS emails ?

More evidence suggesting the IRS’s astonishingly sub-standard data protection practices were deliberately kept in place to permit intentional data destruction and to provide plausible deniability for having done so.

    Well, deniability. It’s not really what you could call plausible…

    This is correct. But it leaves some things out. First and foremost is this – the term “hard drive crashed” is vague. If could be that the log on the disc that stores the many locations over which a file is stored – that log is lost making writing to and reading from the hard drive incoherent and impossible.

    In such cases it is almost impossible that 8 hard drives failures would all of them be completely unrecoverable.

We know that what was done was illegal because of a lack of a paper trail. They can’t just change procedures without thorough vetting from multiple levels of management, internal and external lawyers and maybe even the justice department if it effects civil rights. The fact there appears to be a meeting trail but no corresponding written trail indicates that no one wanted to have their names associated about what they appear to feel was illegal. Otherwise if it were just a matter of legal opinion they would have their names written all over it.

Midwest Rhino | July 9, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Golly Gee … maybe just maybe this lawyer that ran against Durbin (the turban) was telling the truth, and Lerner and 10,000 like her have been abusing government power for decades, to establish their “commie caliphate” leftist public union criminal enterprise:

“But that was not Lerner’s reaction. Instead, that’s when she said to Salvi, “Promise me you’ll never run for office again, and we’ll drop the case.”

“largely because a computer hard drive belonging to a former top IRS official, Lois Lerner, crashed in mid-2011. ”

And, oddly enough, 6 of her top aides too, all right at the same time. Maybe it was something in the cafeteria food that day.

“Backup tapes also were routinely reused after six months.”

Try being a business and using THAT one in court for just about ANYTHING.

BTW, ‘backup’ ‘archive’ and ‘official records’.

‘backups’ can be rotated. ARCHIVES and OFFICAL RECORDS are supposed to be forever.

And when a disk crashes, you are supposed to have MULTIPLE backups available to restore from ( the most recent, then the one before that just in case the most recent has a problem, etc).

That happens IMMEDIATELY, not 6 months or more later.

Anything else is either criminally gross incompetence, or merely criminal.

BannedbytheGuardian | July 9, 2014 at 7:22 pm

The dead giveawyof Lerner being an Admin Ho is ‘Folks’ .

This is not your Bugs Bunny folks , your folk music , your folk embroidered dress , your folkdancing – It is just wierd .

Pieced together from an article –

“But Ms. Lerner’s lawyer, William W. Taylor III, told Politico”…”“During her tenure as director of Exempt Organizations”…”she made every effort to recover the files on the computer,” the lawyer said.”

In every IT department I’ve ever worked in or heard of, when someone with a title like ‘Director of…’ a major division of the company (similar to VP, etc) has an I.T. problem, machine failure, can’t find the Enter key, a fingerprint on their monitor, etc, they don’t have to say ‘please help me’ to the IT staff, they send one of their minions to talk to someone over your head in I.T., and you get dispatched IN FORCE if needed to solve their little problems. FAST.

Everyone below Director (or VP etc) level, waits. You don’t question it, you just do it.

And it don’t take 6 months.

    Argh, blame me the butterfingers for an unintentional thumbs down.

    What I was GOING to say is, my father, who sadly is not long for this world, used to work as a network technician for a school board. Lerner’s process sounds like what a rank and file teacher with less than five years’ experience might go through to attempt to get files recovered. It’s not what a major mover and shaker within a mere school board would receive, let alone the equivalent of the head of a large division at IBM. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    Several agencies (not sure if the IRS is one) have ‘Gold Tier’ customer support for political appointees and other above-GS pay scale employees. Also, OCS has an option set through Group Policy that can force conversations to be saved on the Exchange Server regardless of the user’s desires.

I would like to know why if her disk crashed they didn’t get her a new disk and restore the contents (including emails) from backup tapes? Also, why emails were not kept on email servers like every other large IT organization does?

Oh, I think it’s safe to assume that Divisional Directors get ‘Gold Tier’, whether they signed up for it or not.

If/when OCS is configured to save instant messaging conversations, those are saved in your Outlook mailbox. So it goes back to the same problem, they are claiming no backups or archives of her mailbox.

Did anybody else notice that the 1st or 2nd time Koskinen was before a committee, he said he would never discuss important issues via email. That is just bizarre, but is very enlightening to the attitude of the Administration

buckeyeminuteman | July 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

This is the smoking gun we are all looking for. I’m done. I’m not paying federal income tax anymore. Legally, I can have my employer withhold $0 and when I file I pay it all in April, correct? If so, we all need to have our employers withhold $0 and defund the government. It couldn’t last very long if there wasn’t a steady stream of taxes flowing in.