Last year, Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit came into prominence due to revelations that her unit had specifically targeted a number of conservative tax-exempt organizations. Immediately the right slammed the IRS for its supposed selective treatment under a Democratic presidency. Lerner in a subsequent Treasury Inspector General audit into the matter answered what she knew to be and later revealed as planted questions concerning the matter and attempted to deflect the blame for the situation to subordinates even though this was proven wrong. Later after repeatedly invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify before congressional hearings she was found in contempt of Congress in 2014 over her refusal to testify. Now in further investigation, it has been revealed that e-mails from her time as director have been lost. Foul play or bureaucracy stupidity, you decide, whatever the case, awful.

Apparently, all the e-mails associated with the tenure in question of Lerner have been lost. Lerner has offered her explanation, “Sometimes stuff just happens.” Meanwhile the IRS has offered that it was a catastrophic computer crash that destroyed everything. Convenient when one considers how much this government spends a year on retaining information about private citizens through a variety of mediums. Now the IRS has stated that due to financial and computing constraints, emails on individuals’, computers from January 2009 to April 2011 “no longer exist.” The U.S. is willing to spend over $300 million on a fighter plane that doesn’t work but it can’t supply its senior bureaucrats with backup memory to cover even 100 gigabytes each of a single years’ worth of e-mails for the sake of record and ultimately transparency? Even if the story is true from Lerner and the IRS it is disgraceful in the end.

What I just can’t figure out is how conveniently her e-mails in question have disappeared. More revelations have revealed that the IRS has some fairly short term aimed e-mail policies that ultimately limit the amount of e-mail data that can be stored for a single year and furthermore, once a limit has been reached backup tapes are recorded over. What is the cost of backup records when one looks at the big picture? Though at the same time, e-mails that are “created or received in the transaction of agency business,” and or “appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function or activities,” or “valuable because of the information they contain” are kept on record at the discretion though of the receiver.

Why isn’t there a standard policy on what is considered “official record” as such emails would be? Perhaps leaving the question to be answered by bureaucrats allows for questionable activity to occur which can be hard for investigators to follow and behooves many to push for the preservation of the system at hand. Or perhaps it’s a simple mistake, the gravity of which has escaped our bureaucracy until now when confronted with such a situation.

Is Lois Lerner lying? Who knows, she pled the Fifth enough and showed as much indifference to the situation where one might assume that she is. If she isn’t, well that shows that the American people can’t expect the bureaucracy to be held accountable to anything then if record keeping of its own actions is so poor. Regardless how the Lerner and IRS scandal play out, I firmly believe a more concerted effort should be made to increase the longevity of stored documents pertaining to correspondence between senior bureaucrats, I mean, this is a country that prides itself on transparency, right?

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