White House admits pre-war e-mails not archived
The White House does not have archival copies of e-mails exchanged between administration officials during the weeks leading up to President Bush's decision to invade Iraq nor for the first two months of the war there, according to a just-released filing concerning millions of e-mails alleged to have gone missing or been deleted.
"A White House declaration filed late last night ... makes the stunning admission that the White House failed to preserve ANY backup tapes for the period March 1, 2003 through May 22, 2003, a period of time during which the U.S. went to war in Iraq," says a release from Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a watchdog group suing for public records concerning the disappearance of internal White House e-mails.
Without computer backup tapes from this critical pre-Iraq war period, future researchers may be deprived a vital resource as the delve into the inner workings of the Bush administration as it decided to invade a country that had not attacked the United States and possessed no weapons of mass destruction.
"The harm is that we've lost a huge piece of history," says Anne Weismann, a lawyer for CREW.
Weismann estimated the total number of missing White House e-mails at "10 million-plus."
Investigations into the missing White House e-mails already have shown that e-mails from Vice President Dick Cheney's office were not archived on critical dates during the Justice Department's investigation of the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. The White House already has said it also does not have backup tapes for those dates, Sept. 30, 2003, through Oct. 6, 2003.
"I'm sure there are other holes," Weismann told RAW STORY Tuesday. "We just can't get in to have the kind of forensic review that needs to be done" of what the White House has.
E-mails were missing from internal servers on a total of 473 days, according to documents released by the House Oversight Committee, including dates around when Saddam Hussein was captured and during a court battle surrounding Cheney's energy task force.
CREW is joined by the National Security Archive, an open-government group at in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the White House Office of Administration, which maintains internal computer systems and archives.
The White House filing revealed it had 483 backup tapes from May 23, 2003 to Sept. 29, 2003. CREW has posted the court documents here.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Anne Weismann's name.