June 17, 2014

Missing Lerner Email Not Unique: CREW Calls for Investigation into Systemic Record-keeping Problems

Lois Lerner IRS TestimonyWashington, D.C.—Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asking them to investigate systemic record-keeping problems across the federal government. The House oversight committee is currently investigating the loss of two years of emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner.

CREW’s letter explains the disappearance of email is not unique to any single agency, but rather a government-wide problem.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “The loss of Ms. Lerner’s emails is just another example of deficient government record keeping. Emails by former Justice Department official and author of the ‘torture’ memos John Yoo disappeared, SEC records regarding the Madoff investigation vanished, and millions of emails from the George W. Bush White House were lost. Where was the outrage in those cases? This issue is bigger than any single government component.”

The IRS used a deficient records management system and inexplicably failed to restore Ms. Lerner’s emails from then-existing back-up tapes that have since been recycled. Nevertheless, the problems at the IRS are repeated throughout the government. In 2008, CREW issued a report, “Record Chaos: The Deplorable State of Electronic Record Keeping in the Federal Government,” concluding the government severely mismanaged electronic records and recommending amendments to the Federal Records Act to address the problem.

CREW’s letter to Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) explains the serious deficiencies in our record-keeping laws are a major impediment to meaningful congressional oversight and requests Congress conduct a thorough review of record-keeping practices throughout the government to ensure federal records are adequately protected in the future.

Ms. Sloan continued, “The truth is the disappearance of agency records is not unusual. Government-wide, records are routinely lost or simply not preserved. Unless and until Congress gets serious about fixing this widespread problem by amending the Federal Records Act to include increased penalties and to allow outside groups to sue agencies not complying with the law, we’ll inevitably have other missing email scandals.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or

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