White House: Court has no authority to demand e-mails
A federal court has been rebuffed by the outgoing Bush administration, as the White House has refused an order to provide e-mails that had gone missing but were allegedly found.
According to court documents filed Friday, the White House asserts that not all parts of the administration are held to the Federal Records Act. The White House also claimed it had uncovered over 14 million e-mails, but has provided no further details.
According to published reports, responding to the White House, US Magistrate Judge John Facciola reiterated the order, insisting the administration comply and search all systems for the e-mails.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Helen H. Hong had stated at a court hearing that "private contractors had helped find the e-mails by searching through an estimated 60,000 tapes that contain daily recordings of the entire contents of the White House computers as a precaution against an electronic disaster."
With President-elect Obama's inauguration looming just days away, the District Court of the District of Columbia issued the directive instructing the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to search its computers and ordering EOP staff "to surrender any media in their possession that may contain e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005."
In February of 2008, a former Bush administration employee said at a congressional hearing that the White House's "primitive" archiving system may have lost more than a million emails.
Soon after Bush was first elected, as RAW STORY reported on Nov. 24, the White House dismantled the records management system that President Bill Clinton had implemented, replacing it with an unreliable system that led to the massive number of email deletions from White House servers.
Similar communications losses apparently struck former top Bush adviser Karl Rove, when a Republican National Committee lawyer admitted in 2007 that at least four years of emails sent by Rove had "gone missing." The admission came as Congress investigated the controversial dismissals of US Attorneys by the Bush Justice Department.
In February of 2008, a former Bush administration employee said at a congressional hearing that the White House's "primitive" archiving system may have lost more than a million emails over 1,000 days.
Ironically, Cheney's office is missing emails from the very day President Bush told reporters he'd "take care of" whatever staff member had leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Cheney's office also is missing e-mails from Oct. 4, 2003, when the Justice Department demanded that the White House turn over "all documents that relate in any way" to the leak of Plame's identity. E-mails are also missing for the following day, during which the probe intensified and CIA director George Tenet found himself at the center of it, "caught between his loyalty to the president and defending an agency enraged" at Plame's exposure, according to the New York Times.
As US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's probe into the Plame case continued over the next few years, emails continued to disappear, CREW said. More e-mails were missing from Cheney's office on Feb. 16, 2005, when a court ordered reporters who had discussed Plame's identity with administration officials to testify about those conversations.
All in all, some 473 days of emails are missing from various Administration departments, according to a House Democrat who saw a White House presentation on the files.
Correction: An earlier version of this article asserted that the White House invoked executive privilege in their filing. The White House's legal argument is narrower, claiming that some of the emails fall outside the purview of the Federal Records Act.