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The Justice Department is looking into the loss of a former Internal Revenue Service official's e-mails, according to a senior justice official.

But the official says it's part of the overall investigation into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative organizations for additional scrutiny and audits.

The IRS notified Congress last month that it could not find all of Lois Lerner's e-mails from January 2009 to May 2011, when she was in charge of an IRS office that dealt with tax exempt groups. Lerner is at the center of the IRS controversy and invoked the Fifth Amendment right when she appeared in front of Congress.

Officials say the lost emails are "not being looked at as a potential crime or obstruction of justice," only an effort to recover all evidence.

"If it turns out there was a potential crime in the loss of the e-mails, obviously they would take it in that direction," the official added.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole testifies Thursday before a House committee about the progress of the overall investigation of the IRS.

In his prepared testimony, he says: "We cannot disclose non-public information about the investigation while it remains pending....I can, however, tell you that the investigation includes investigating the circumstances of the lost emails from Ms. Lerner's computer."