I have been out of the country for about a week, so forgive my tardiness in commenting on the IRS e-mail story that has been percolating in the US press for the past week.
Most of the press stories I’ve seen while on a belated 30th anniversary trip to Sorrento (we’re on the verge of our 34th anniversary, so I guess it’s about time) have centered around the poor performance of the British and the Italians and the Portuguese in the World Cup. At the end of the personal trip, I attended an AIIM Executive Leadership Council meeting, but more on that in a minute.
[Note: I do not intend this post as some sort of political statement. Really. There are lots of other folks out there who seem to love to tee up just about any story as an “Us vs. Them” story, regardless of the merits of the issue. I even saw one lunatic story during a brief foray into Facebook while on our trip equating the rise of soccer in the US with the decline of America. Sigh. I intend this as a post on information competency.]
So let me get this straight.
Some excerpts from a June 23 New York Times article I am reading on-line “whilst” sitting in Heathrow (I thought I would use the British since I’m still here):
The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, testified before the House Oversight Committee on Monday to answer questions about how two years’ worth of emails sent and received by Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of a growing I.R.S. scandal, could have been destroyed, and why the agency waited until just recently to tell Congress.
Q. How many emails are missing?
A. It is impossible to know for sure, because the agency says that the emails in question were destroyed when Ms. Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed in June 2011.
Q. Even if Ms. Lerner’s hard drive crashed, how could her emails have just disappeared? Were they backed up?
A. Apparently not, at least not permanently. Before it changed its storage policies last year, the I.R.S. backed up emails onto old-fashioned tape drives. Every six months, it reused those tapes, thus erasing the previous batch.
When many of these systems were installed, computer storage was much more expensive than it is now. So they were intended for “disaster recovery, not e-discovery” for legal purposes, said Jonathan Feldman, the chief information officer for the City of Asheville, N.C., who has consulted for large companies and written extensively about data management practices. “I.T. people weren’t concerned with document retention.”