Congress probes how IRS emails could go missing

By Jack Gillum

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 20 2014 11:42 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, June 20 2014 11:42 a.m. MDT

Koskinen said the hard drive was recycled and presumably destroyed. He said it's not clear whether all eight of the hard drive failures resulted in lost emails.

Koskinen also said appointment of a special federal prosecutor to investigate the IRS handling of tax-exempt applications would be a "monumental waste of taxpayer funds."

Lerner, who is at the center of the investigation, has invoked her Fifth Amendment right at least nine times to avoid answering lawmakers' questions. Lerner's computer crashed sometime around June 13, 2011, according to emails provided to Congress. She first learned about the tea party reviews on June 29, according to an earlier audit by the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration.

The IRS was able to find copies of 24,000 Lerner emails from between 2009 and 2011 because Lerner had sent copies to other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it was producing 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering 2009 to 2013. The agency said it searched for emails of 83 people and spent nearly $10 million to produce hundreds of thousands of documents.

At the time that Lerner's computer crashed, IRS policy had been to make copies of all IRS employees' email inboxes every day and hold them for six months. The agency changed the policy in May 2013 to keep these snapshots for a longer, unspecified amount of time. Had this been the policy in 2011, when at least two of the computer crashes occurred, there likely could have been backups of the lost emails today.

Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report. On Twitter, follow Sullivan at http://www.twitter.com/esullivanap and Gillum at http://www.twitter.com/jackgillum .

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