Washington, D.C. of counsel Jason R. Baron was quoted in an article titled, “The IRS’ Email Black Hole,” in Politico.
Transparency advocates and experts in retrieving email from antiquated government computer systems told Politico they are not surprised that the IRS lost tens of thousands of emails sought by Congress. The reason is that the IRS’s record-keeping procedures, which include erasing backup tapes every six months, have been known for years as critical weaknesses in government record collection.
The observers said all of the warning signs were there for years. Before May 2013, when the scandal erupted, the agency only backed up employee emails on tapes for six months, then recycled the tapes.
The IRS generally depended on employees to archive their emails on their laptops and print out permanent, official records and save them. The law requires that records of permanent value to the government be saved and that agencies abide by published “records schedules” that say how long certain types of records should be kept.
Jason said that the IRS’s practice of having employees print out important emails isn’t the best way to make sure such records are preserved.
“The volumes are too overwhelming. Manual printing out or manual tagging, drag and drop, are well-known to be essentially failed policies. We can’t rely on people. They’re too busy to keep up,” said Jason.