When crucial evidence disappears or is destroyed, investigators must double their efforts to find out why.
The allegation that President Barack Obama's Internal Revenue Service intentionally targeted his political opponents for abuse is a serious one, not only undemocratic but also criminal in nature. That kind of misconduct was part of the decision by the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach President Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis of the early 1970s.
So when the IRS recently disclosed that it has lost the emails of key witnesses within its bureaucracy — Lois Lerner and six others — it was serious business.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if IRS chief John Koskinen or the Obama administration is particularly concerned about either what happened or the appearance of a system-wide cover-up.
Although his credibility has been shredded, Koskinen sat poker-faced through a congressional hearing last week, even taking umbrage when some committee members questioned his veracity.
"I don't think an apology is owed," he said, referring to the lost emails and the destruction of the hard drive taken from Lerner's computer.
Those who know a little about computers say that nothing is unrecoverable if experts have access to the necessary parts. The convenient destruction of Lerner's hard drive, of course, makes that impossible. Has the same fate befallen the computer hard drives of the other witnesses whose emails have been lost?
Some may view the ongoing probe of IRS abuse as a partisan matter, and it has become that to some degree. But it ought to be no more partisan now than it was when congressional investigators pursued the same issue during the Nixon administration.
Using the power of the IRS to harass, intimidate and silence the political opposition is a major crime. It's not only an abuse of power, but it also threatens the democratic process. The targeting of conservative groups by Obama supporters within the IRS is intolerable, not because liberals were going after conservatives but because neither side can be allowed to use governmental power to achieve partisan goals.
Needless to say, Congress can't take this dog-ate-my-homework defense lying down. This issue must be pursued for as long as necessary to collect all the facts.