On Thursday, a federal judge ordered that the Internal Revenue Service explain how it lost two years of emails from a former official, according to The Wall Street Journal. The judge handed the issue over to a magistrate judge in order to find out if the documents can be acquired from other sources.
The IRS has until August 10 to give a sworn declaration that explains how the email loss happened. The ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. According to the IRS, the emails were lost because of a computer crash of the official’s computer back in 2011. The other part of the explanation is that the backup tapes were reused six months later.
The official at the heart of the incident is Lois Lerner, who is not retired. Emails show that she asked technicians from the IRS to restore her hard drive, but they could not.
Lerner is the focus of a congressional investigation into the IRS treatment of conservative groups that applied for operational status as tax-exempt organizations. Last year, an inspector general found that the IRS targeted tea-party groups for intrusive questions and long delays.
Judge Sullivan assigned Magistrate Judge John Facciola to the case so he can explore ways to obtain the records of the agency from other sources.
All of this stems from a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, which has asked to see IRS records related to the targeting incident under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to a standard federal contract, the hard drive for Lerner was recycled and shredded.