White House Sued Again Over E – Mail
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House abandoned an automatic archiving system for its e-mail in 2002 and did not replace it, says a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Executive Office of the President.
The suit by the National Security Archive, a private group, is the latest effort to find out whether the Bush administration lost millions of electronic messages.
White House e-mail problems first came to light during a special prosecutor’s investigation into the leaking of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity and again during congressional inquiries into the role of presidential aides in firings of U.S. attorneys.
Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democratic House committee chairman, has set a deadline of Monday for White House counsel Fred Fielding to turn over a White House-prepared analysis of the issue. A second private organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, sued last May in a so-far unsuccessful effort to force the administration to release records that provide an explanation.
Waxman said last week that two White House lawyers told congressional staff three months ago that a review apparently found some days with a very small number of preserved e-mails and some days with no e-mails preserved at all.
Both the lawsuit by the National Security Archive and the earlier one filed by CREW say there were hundreds of days in which there were missing White House e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005.
”The period covers the period beginning with the Iraq war until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; it doesn’t get more historically valuable than that,” said Tom Blanton, director of the private organization, which advocates public disclosure of government secrets.
The group’s lawsuit filed under the Administrative Procedure Act seeks a federal court order directing the White House to recover any e-mails that were deleted from servers and that now exist only on backup tapes.
Unless the electronic messages are retrieved from the backup tapes, the records ”may be lost forever,” the suit says. The Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act require that e-mail be preserved.