Hugh Pickens writes:
Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, is a key figure in the IRS's controversy over the tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups. Now CBS News reports that the IRS has told congressional investigators that the IRS cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed that year. "Isn't it convenient for the Obama Administration that the IRS now says it has suddenly realized it lost Lois Lerner's emails requested by Congress and promised by Commissioner John Koskinen?" says House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa. "Do they really expect the American people to believe that, after having withheld these emails for a year, they're just now realizing the most critical time period is missing?
According to a veteran IT professional, the IRS' claim that the agency lost two years' worth of former IRS official Lois Lerner's emails is "simply not feasible." Norman Cillo, an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and a former program manager at Microsoft, says it is very difficult to lose emails for good because Microsoft Exchange used by the government for their email servers have built-in exchange mail database redundancy and all servers use some form of RAID technology and tape backup. Cillo says it's possible the IRS is telling the truth if the federal agency is "totally mismanaged and has the worst IT department ever." "I don't know of any email administrator that doesn't have at least three ways of getting that mail back. It's either on the disks or it's on a TAPE backup someplace or in an archive server. There are at least three ways the government can get those emails."
Everyone knows that backups are write-only.
But seriously, sloppy information handling seems to be par for the course for nearly every organization, governmental or not. I would not be surprised to learn that the IRS took a cue from the corporate world and configured their email server to delete any message older than 90 days because those are "industry standard practices." The corps do it to avoid incriminating evidence turning up in the discovery phase of lawsuits, but they claim all kinds of other reasons (cost of storage, etc) and there are definitely dumbass sysadmins out there who believe it.
except in the case of the US Federal government they have a mandate for e-mail retention, so technically they have broken the law.
As you can see by reading that link, there is a ton of leeway in that statute.