Thursday, June 19, 2014

Encyclopedia Brown and The Case of the Missing Emails

In case you missed it:

The Story You've Been Told*

Mayor Bugs Meany and his cohort of bullies (he won election by having his gang, the Tigers, who should have been called The Democrats, because they were communist and intimidated voters with pipe-wrenches from Mr. Sweeny's auto-body shop) have been harassing the good people of Idaville. He's using his installed creeps at City Hall to disrupt the freedom loving people trying to organize to teach classes on the US Constitution.

However, Encyclopedia Brown is on the case. What he needs to bring down Meany is some kind of link between the malfeasance in City Hall and the Mayor's office--an event which is still (and forever) 'pending investigation.'

Good news: Sally Kimball, his former partner (and bodyguard) has discovered that there likely exist email evidence proving Meany's involvement.

Bad news: The Tigers claim a computer crash destroyed the emails (despite the fact that they were backed up!) and now Encyclopedia has to go in there and prove they're lying!

Fortunately, this should not be difficult:
It looks like he got away with it this time, sighs Encyclopedia Brown. 

He refunds the quarter. The remaining opposition in City Hall's lower house votes to defund the Tigers--but it's killed in the upper chamber.
Last Known Photo of Lois Lerner's Hard Drive

What Really Happened

Fairly recently, the ongoing #Benghazi investigation made a new discovery: an email on the night of the attack (after the attack had begun) to YouTube asking them to take down the Islam-Insulting video. Some people saw it as evidence that the administration actually believed the attack was motivated by the video. Darrel Issa, Republican Grand Inquisitor Congressman found this as proof that the White House was contradicting its own story about the origin of the attack's rationale (the CIA) and proof of a zero-day spin-control cover-up. An email of the administration trying to shut down the video is evidence of a conspiracy to tell that story to the public.

One wonders what possible email could vindicate the administration under these circumstances? Now, the issue here isn't about #Benghazi (hash-tagged because that is now what it has become, along with #OWS)--the issue here is what evidence would mainstream republicans accept as exculpatory of the administration in any way?

When The Omnivore learned that requested IRS emails were missing because "the dog ate them" he was skeptical too. Still is. The optics on this? They're bad. Email is remarkably persistent: when you delete it, it goes into a deleted folder. When you save it to your hard drive, it gets backed up by whatever backs up your system.

On the server, it gets backed up to tapes. Those tapes hang around for ... a while. Even if you smashed a hard drive like the above, you could probably recover something off it. Individual computers can also be backed up to corporate servers. 

This is all true--what troubles The Omnivore about the above narrative is that there is a layer of bullshit that is being spread over the proceedings. The specific form of the allegations that conservatives are leveling are inept and inaccurate--and they're concerned that the media is more interested in covering conservative outrage than the scandal itself!?

What is The Omnivore talking about?

Let's start here:
  • Lois Lerner isn't an Obama political appointee: she joined the IRS in 2001 and got her position in 2006 under Bush. Accusations that she's a crony don't hold up (she may well be a partisan Democrat--but she did not get her position from Obama).
  • The "Bombshell" about the IRS back-up rules and the "absurdly low limit" of disk space is presented as a smoking gun. If that's what it takes, let The Omnivore tell you, a major (world-spanning) corporation The Omnivore is very familiar with had similar limits on email account disk space (and LET THE OMNIVORE TELL YOU: IT WAS A MASSIVE PAIN IN THE ASS). Long term document storage is expensive (Google Iron Mountain). Reusing tapes isn't a best-practice but it's not evidence of a cover-up. As a bombshell, this one is a serious dud.
  • Experts claiming there's no way these could be lost just aren't paying attention. A recycled hard drive is gone. A re-used tape is pretty much gone. The hard drives on the servers from 2 years ago will have been over-written multiple times. Redundant secondary backup (Google EMC storage) is super-duper expensive: there's no way the IRS was using this for their Exchange servers. They weren't backing up individual computers: no one's contesting they were. There's ample evidence of the crash: we have tech support emails from Lerner about that. If this was a cover-up, it was a long time in the making. Claiming that the IRS or FBI must be able to recover these emails and simply don't want to is conspiracy theory.
  • The IRS was investigated by the treasury department. This already happened last year. It found lack of training and incompetence but no malfeasance (it also found that these tax-exempt organizations are supposed to be largely apolitical--something the Tea Party isn't--but there's long standing flaunting of those rules). If you assume the Treasury in in Obama's pocket, you may as well assume all law enforcement everywhere is--in which case ... well, you better hope Cliven Bundy's freedom riders are heading towards Washington right now.
The problem here isn't the phony scandal. It isn't even the cover up. It's the selling of the scandal--it's the investigation beyond the Treasury's internal investigation--it's the assumption that every allegation requires a special prosecutor because no element of the government can be trusted that is the problem.

What level of complicity from the IRS at large would Lerner need to execute a cover-up? According to The Omnivore: none. Their document retention and back-up strategies were bad enough that she could simply delete the incriminating emails, empty her Outlook waste-basket, and then hope the drive fails (which it did). According to intelligent, popular conservative blogs? Orders from the White House to reduce document retention, help from the IRS IT Department to fabricate a crash. Confederates in the storage group to re-use the tapes. In other words, the whole thing. This is Clifford the Big Red Conspiracy--it isn't logical and it's overwrought.

If you want to tell us, with outrage, that the mainstream media isn't covering the email loss (CNN, ABC, and everyone else covered it that day--the outrage was that it wasn't covered on their Morning shows)--or that it's clearly a partisan attempt to goal-tend for Obama "the precious", perhaps you should step back and realize that a 500 MB mail-box limit isn't exactly the bombshell you think it is.
Think Progress (Left) Claims the IRS Targeted More Left-Wing Orgs Than Right-Wring Ones

* If you're lost, you didn't grow up reading Encyclopedia Brown mystery stories in the 70's and 80'!

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