IRS officials used private email to handle confidential taxpayer information

IRS officials used private email to handle confidential taxpayer information

The House Oversight Committee has learned that senior Internal Revenue Service officials – including the notorious Lois Lerner – were tossing confidential taxpayer information around through private email accounts – which is a violation of agency policy, a threat to the security of sensitive tax data, a clear effort to evade oversight, and quite possibly a crime.

The Washington Free Beacon reports on a letter sent last week from House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa to Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, in which Issa described the “troubling pattern” of tax data shared through private email:

“This not only raises the prospect of violations of the Federal Records Act but it also raises data security concerns and violates internal IRS policies,” Issa wrote to Werfel.

The committee discovered the emails while investigating the ongoing IRS scandal that began earlier this year when an official admitted that the agency targeted conservative groups during the 2012 election.

Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS’ tax-exempt division at the heart of the scandal, is one of the officials named in Issa’s letter.

Issa said the committee’s investigation produced more than 1,600 pages of emails and documents housed in Lerner’s nonofficial email account related to IRS business, including nearly 30 pages of confidential taxpayer information. Included in the material was a summary of an application for tax-exempt status the IRS instructed Lerner’s legal counsel to redact.

Another offender was Werfel’s predecessor, Douglas Shulman, briefly and inaccurately portrayed by President Obama as having been sacked over the outrageous abuses that occurred on his watch.  In reality, he reached the scheduled end of a temporary assignment, but Obama’s fibs were good enough to drag him through a news cycle, and as we should have learned by now, that’s the only priority for this Administration during a scandal.  To recap the current status of the IRS case, the total number of people fired or disciplined stands at zero.  Lerner is retiring with plush benefits after enjoying several months of paid “administrative leave.”

A new name added to the scandal roster is Judith Kendell, senior tech adviser for the Exempt Organizations Division.  Issa noted that Kendell did not disclose the storage of work emails in her private account, even after agency management requested such disclosure from all employees.  That’s a bit fishy, isn’t it?  Or are we now supposed to believe that technical advisers for massive government agencies don’t know what they’ve got tucked away into their unofficial email accounts?  (Actually, given the catastrophic failure of the ObamaCare system, that might be somewhat plausible.  America is a broadband nation ruled by a dial-up elite.)

The Free Beacon reviews the relevant IRS policies and federal laws:

IRS policies prohibit employees from sending confidential taxpayer information through non-official channels. Federal statutes also strictly prohibit the IRS from releasing taxpayer information.

Additionally, federal employees are prohibited from using private email accounts to conduct official business, unless they copy their official accounts on such messages to ensure they are properly recorded.

The IRS public affairs office is closed due to the ongoing government shutdown, so the agency was not available for comment.

Stonewall construction will no doubt resume promptly when the “shutdown” ends.  The Free Beacon recalls similar abuse of private email accounts at the Environmental Protection Agency, whose administrator Lisa Jackson actually had a transgender alter ego, “Richard Windsor.”  The EPA investigated itself and concluded “employees did not intentionally try to skirt records law, but it found the agency was not adequately training employees on record-keeping practices.”  Given that record keeping is one of the primary functions of a bureaucracy, it’s amazing how few people in this titanic money-no-object government lack training in how to do it, producing a level of “accountability” below what one would expect from the average fast-food restaurant.

You know what the kids at the IRS did have plenty of time to do?  Audit Dr. Ben Carson, for the first time in his life, right after he spoke up against Barack Obama’s policies at the National Prayer Breakfast, tossing in a robust moral and practical critique of the US tax system for good measure.  Wonder if the decision to audit was discussed in any private emails investigators won’t be able to see…

Update: In the course of explaining how the IRS cover-up works, John Fund of National Review notes that the agency has thus far given House Oversight “a little more than 10 percent of the documents the IRS has admitted are relevant to the committee’s investigation.”  Has anyone checked the spam filter on Lois Lerner’s personal email account to see if the other 90 percent are stuck in there?

Update: Interesting how the Administration expects all of us to jump through countless hoops for ObamaCare – and then dispatches HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to insult us by claiming the system is “simple and user-friendly” – but top officials can’t be expected to comply with a simple policy because of allegedly insufficient training.  “Do not use private email to conduct official business” seems like a pretty straightforward policy, as does “for the love of God, don’t send confidential taxpayer data with unsecured private email.”  I think I could train the average grade-school student to follow both policies using a single sentence, if given a sufficient allocation of commas and semicolons, plus maybe a nice exclamation point.

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