Top IRS officials told congressional investigators that Lois Lerner's hard drive -- the one containing emails that could shed light on the IRS targeting scandal -- was irreparably damaged before it was destroyed completely in 2011. But now, investigators have had a chance to talk to the technical experts inside the IRS who actually examined Lerner's computer, and the experts say the hard drive in question was actually just "scratched," and that most of the data on it was recoverable.
The IRS computer experts also told the committee that they had recommended seeking outside help in recovering the data from Lerner's computer — something IRS management declined to do.
The revelation has increased the sense among Republicans on Capitol Hill that they're being jerked around by the IRS. "It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in a statement Tuesday. "The committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded. To now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrong doing at the IRS."
In addition, the committee says it has come across evidence that, at least for some period of time, Lerner's computer was listed as "recovered" in an internal IRS IT tracking document. The committee says IRS experts were not able to say whether "recovered" meant that the hard drive had actually been saved or whether it had met some other fate. In any event, committee aides say they have consulted with "former federal law enforcement and Department of Defense forensic experts" about the matter, and their conclusion is that the majority of information on the drive could have been saved.
If anything, the new information has strengthened GOP's resolve to keep investigating the IRS matter. "It is these constant delays and late revelations that have forced this investigation to go on so long," Camp said. "If the IRS would just come clean and tell Congress and the American people what really happened, we could put an end to this. Our investigators will not stop until we find the full truth."
This story was first published on July 22 at 10:16 p.m.