- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Obama administration admitted Thursday that it has lost emails from the key official who oversaw the botched federal Obamacare rollout last year, and the health department may have broken the law by failing to report the lost emails to the National Archives.

Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, thought she had saved the emails as official records but now realizes they “might not be retrievable,” the Health and Human Services Department said in a letter to Congress detailing the problem.

Coming on top of the Internal Revenue Service scandal, in which key figure Lois G. Lerner’s emails apparently disappeared in a hard-drive crash, the revelation is the latest dent in President Obama’s vow to run a transparent administration.

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“The Obama administration has lost or destroyed emails for more than 20 witnesses, and in each case, the loss wasn’t disclosed to the National Archives or Congress for months or years, in violation of federal law,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, a California Republican who has been leading congressional investigations into IRS targeting and into Obamacare.

Mr. Issa said he only now found out about the lost emails, in a letter from an assistant secretary, despite having issued a subpoena for the documents in October.

“Yet again, we discover that this administration will not be forthright with the American people unless cornered,” Mr. Issa said.

Aaron Albright, a spokesman for Ms. Tavenner, said the “vast majority” of her emails are likely retrievable and more than 71,000 that have been identified might be responsive to the subpoena.

He said that set of emails has no “significant chronological gaps.”

But HHS didn’t inform the National Archives of the lost emails until Wednesday, a day before the department told Congress.

“Based on a recent analysis of emails (which was completed on July 31, 2014) undertaken in connection with a request from a congressional committee, it appears that most, but not all, of the Administrator’s email records were sent within HHS and therefore were likely saved within HHS records,” Kathleen Cantwell, an HHS records management official, said in an official notification to the Archives.

“While we have not identified any specific emails that we will be unable to retrieve, it is possible that some emails may not be available to HHS, and we are therefore filing this memorandum,” she wrote.

HHS said it didn’t know for sure that records were lost, but it was filing the notice “out of an abundance of caution.”

The IRS took heat this year for failing to inform the Archives that some of Ms. Lerner’s emails were destroyed in a 2011 computer hard-drive crash. Under federal rules, the Archives must be notified whenever potential official records required to be stored for posterity are lost.

In Ms. Lerner’s case, the Justice Department is looking into the loss of emails as part of a broader criminal investigation into IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Mr. Obama took office promising to make transparency a priority, but his agencies have come under fire repeatedly for delays and problems with meeting open records laws.

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