The Computer Ate My Homework
I’m not the IT expert, but I’m a heck of a lot closer than pretty much anyone in congress. So news, that the IRS had completely lost a set of e-mails from Lois Lerner’s computer stuck me as pretty odd. As Hot Air notes, Sharyl Attkisson has a few questions that someone should probably answer in this fiasco:
- Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
- Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
- I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.
There are plenty of other great ones in there, go read the whole thing.
We get constant legal training at my company on how e-mails are retained and what we can and can not say in e-mails. But one essential piece of the puzzle is that pretty much any e-mail I’ve written in 20+ years can be recovered with the proper legal motivation. The servers are backed up consistently, and the logs can be used to retrieve individual messages if necessary. There are e-mail systems that don’t do this, but I can’t imagine that the feds actually use one of them, since it would pretty much violate every information security practice that’s been developed in the last, oh, three decades.
So as far as I can tell, one of two things is going on. The first would be that the IRS IT department is so totally incompetent that they don’t even know what they’re doing. The second is that they’re maliciously dissembling to congress and hoping that nobody’s smart enough to catch them. Both of these scare the snot out of me.
Updated 6/17: Thanks to Mike and Paul for the reblogs. Anyone visiting is always welcome to jump around the site and see what else we discuss here. I’ve been kinda’ light on blogging the past few weeks, but it should pick up again for a bit while my travel schedule relaxes, and Lynn might even make a reappearance in a couple weeks.
Updated 6/19: So now the IRS is trying to change the subject to the fact that the hard drive in question from Ms. Lerner’s computer was destroyed. Honestly, that’s standard operating procedure for an IT department. You can’t have hard drives hanging around with partially-erased data. At almost any decent organization, the hard drives are degaussed and crushed when they’re taken out of service, and that includes any hard drive from a decommissioned system.
This is still completely orthogonal to the real discussion. In the IRS system, e-mail is backed up from the server, not from the client. Especially as the government is concerned, those backups should be stored for quite a while. So all this is a distraction from my above point. This is either total incompetence or deliberate malfeasance, and both frighten me.