Newly released information on the Lois Lerner email scandal raises questions as to whether there was some kind of deliberate act to physically damage Lerner’s hard drive.

According to testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), an IRS technician examining Lerner’s hard drive noticed “scoring on the top platter of the drive.”

As the written testimony states:

“After receiving the hard drive from the IT technician, the IRS-CI technician attempted, but was unsuccessful in recovering data, so he returned the hard drive to the IT depot at the IRS headquarters building for its ultimate destruction. According to the IRS-CI technician, he noted some scoring on the top platter of the drive, and he believed there were additional steps that could have been taken to attempt to recover data. IRS IT management determined the extra effort to recover data from Ms. Lerner’s hard drive was not worth the expense.”

While the testimony notes “scoring” it does not provide specific information on the extent of the damage, or speculate as to what caused the damage.

[Pictured below is a hard drive with top platter]

So how did the scoring get there? Let’s start with what is known:

– According to the testimony, 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 testimony, “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. 

– Her laptop was then serviced by an IRS IT staff technician and a Hewlett-Packard contractor. Note how the HP contractor thought the hard drive crashed due to a physical impact:

“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.” An earlier inspection of her laptop noted no “visible damage to the laptop computer itself.”

– As the report 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. As the report states:

“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” yet the computer remained undamaged. However, given these facts it seems logical to question what — or who — caused the damage to the hard drive.

TIGTA officials have said they plan to release the full findings “in the very near future.”