Obama Admin claims no new backups disclosed

I reported earlier that Judicial Watch had been told by a DoJ lawyer that Lerner's emails were recoverable from backup tapes, but that doing so would be "too onerous" for an FOIA request.

This would obviously be a bombshell revelation, and was reported as such.

The administration's side of the story is that the backup tapes referred to are those that have been previously reported as being recycled every six months:

The official said DOJ lawyers were only referring to tapes backing up IRS emails that were routinely recycled twice a year before 2013, when the investigation into the Tea Party controversy began.

“There is no newly divulged back-up system that was not previously known about,” the official said. “Government lawyers were simply referring to the back-up system at the IRS that Commissioner Koskinen had already disclosed.”

Problem: "onerous" is a word that means "difficult and unpleasant work", not "impossible" work. The task may be "onerous", but it can still be completed. If you are a lawyer defending the IRS in this situation, and want to retain even a shred of a good reputation, you need to be very careful in what you say. Top officials at the IRS ahve previously testified that these backup tapes didn't exist; then they had been recycled; then they had been written over with new data... and now, well, "they are too onerous to search" is another change. What was once impossible has now become merely difficult and annoying and likely to be embarrassing.

I won't deny that restoring from a data recovery system backup will be a significant task, possibly even an onerous one. But that's why we have backup systems. And if restoring from those backups is possible -- even if difficult -- now, it was surely possible when Koskinen, Kane, and others testified that the emails were lost permanently.

To put it another way, a federal agency does not get to tell Congress what the agency will provide in response to a subpoena. Congress issues, and the agency must comply. No matter how onerous.

At this point, we need someone outside the executive branch to take physical possession of the backup tapes and apply whatever possible techniques they can to recover them. Spend millions if necessary. Billions is not unreasonable. Come back for more when you run out. Take the money from the IRS budget for Star Trek videos, bonuses and IT services they clearly aren't using.

This entry was published Thu Aug 28 14:44:34 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2014-08-27 22:32:04.0. [Tweet]

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