The Curious Case of Lois Lerner's Physically Damaged Hard Drive
New documentation released by the House Oversight Committee this week again raises questions on how Lois Lerner’s hard drive was physically damaged and whether there was some kind of deliberate act to destroy data on it.
The House Oversight Committee report cites an officially transcribed interview with John Minsek, senior investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) unit. Minsek examined the Lerner hard drive in 2011. In the transcribed interview, he notes Lerner's hard drive contained “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.” The Oversight Committee report states:
"Using the CI unit's digital forensic facilities, Minsek opened the hard drive and conducted additional tests. Once he opened the hard drive, Minsek noticed “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.”
So how did the scoring get there?
Last month, testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had “scoring on the top platter of the drive.” The testimony also noted that the IRS technician that inspected the hard drive believed that additional steps could have been taken to recover data, although this did not occur and the hard drive was later destroyed by an industrial strength AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder.
Given these facts, it is logical to question how the "scoring" occurred and whether there was foul play involved. Here it what is known thus far:
- According to TIGTA testimony submitted to the Oversight Committee on June 25, 2014, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
- According to the same testimony,the laptop was likely physically located in Lerner's office the moment it stopped communicating with the server:
"Based on consistent network reporting for more than a week, the laptop computer was likely located in Ms. Lerner’s office."
- On Monday June 13, 2011, Lerner reported the laptop inoperable.
- Lerner's laptop was initially serviced by an IRS IT staff technician and a Hewlett-Packard contractor. Of note, the HP contractor thought the hard drive crashed due to a physical impact. According to the TIGTA testimony:
“When asked about the possible cause of the hard drive failure, the HP technician opined that heat-related failures are not seen often, and based on the information provided to him, the hard drive more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort. However, because the HP technician did not examine the hard drive as part of his work on the laptop, it could not be determined why it crashed.”
- As the testimony states, TIGTA was unable to determine whether anyone had entered Lois Lerner’s office during the date in question because entry logs had been destroyed after a year in keeping with the vendor's operating procedures:
“Attempts were made to determine if anyone entered Ms. Lerner’s office prior to the hard drive crash on June 11, 2011; however, the entry logs that would have recorded any entry into the building were destroyed by the building security vendor after one year of retention, or sometime in 2012. The destruction of the logs after one year falls within the vendor’s standard operating procedures.”
- TIGTA’s testimony states that the laptop as a whole appeared undamaged. When Lerner’s laptop was first inspected by both an assigned IT specialist and Hewlett Packard contractor they both stated that “they did not note any visible damage to the laptop computer itself.”
The testimony does not speculate how the hard drive was “scored” while the computer itself remained visibly undamaged. However, given these facts it seems logical to question what -- or who -- caused the damage to the hard drive.
In August and September, the Oversight Committee is expected to release more information from the millions of reviewed documents and 50 transcribed interviews. All Americans expecting honest government hope more light will be shed on how Lerner’s hard drive mysteriously received "scoring."
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"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."