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A New Report on Missing White House E-Mails

POSTED: 11:10 AM ET, 08/21/2008 by Derek Kravitz

An internal White House document obtained by The Associated Press shows that as many as 225 days of e-mail dating back to 2003 from the Bush administration's time in office are missing.

The document is a nine-page outline of the White House's request for bids for outside companies to recover those e-mails, The AP's Pete Yost reports.

Word of the document detailing the missing e-mails comes on the heels of a U.S. District Court ruling that said the White House does not have to make public internal documents examining the potential disappearance of e-mails.

A judge ruled in June that the White House's Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, The Post reported.


The document also differs somewhat from a 2005 internal White House study that identified 473 days in which e-mails weren't stored.

The White House attacked that report at the time, saying that it could not independently replicate or authenticate the results described in the report, which was disclosed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The mysterious missing e-mails have become a source of debate in Congress. Among the messages missing are those sent before and after the invasion of Iraq, a crucial time in the Bush presidency.

Investigators found that the White House relied on an antiquated archiving system for storing the millions of e-mails that flow through the office's servers.

In February, the Republican National Committee told a House committee that it would not try to recover its correspondence with the White House by restoring computer backup tapes, despite the fact that several senior White House officials used RNC e-mail accounts for official business.

By Derek Kravitz |  August 21, 2008; 11:10 AM ET
Previous: McCain Volunteer Tied to NRA 'Spygate'? | Next: Report: Federal Helium Program Full of Hot Air

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



they learned from nixon, destroy the evidence and you will remain in office.

Posted by: j mulhollan | August 21, 2008 11:37 AM

Yet another violation of federal law by the Bush administration. Back-ups are SOP everywhere but we are supposed to believe they didn't do it on purpose. BS BS BS

Worst. President. Ever.

Posted by: 13th ST | August 21, 2008 11:59 AM

Nothing will come of attempts to recover email from the pre-Iraq Invasion.
Want proof? Just consider how quickly any considerations of impeachment or punishment for Scooter Libby, Cheney, Bush and the so obviously crooked Gonzales VANISHED!

Posted by: Lu Franklin | August 21, 2008 12:23 PM

Those emails will never be found. Watergate's lesson to Bush/Cheney and the RNC: never, never, never leave a trail-- paper, electronic, or otherwise.

The operating models for this administration most resemble The Mob, the Mafia, la cosa nostra, organized crime, etc. Keep everything secret, no memos, no records, nothing to incriminate. Be more concerned with plausible deniability than effective government.

Probably the worst sin of this worst administration ever is they tarnish the reputations of all hard-working, honest, dedicated public servants everywhere.

Posted by: cody mccall | August 21, 2008 12:31 PM

Doesn't anybody wonder why this story isn't on the front page of every major newspaper?

Because the WH press corps is friendly with the WH Office of Information, that's why.

Reporters have become politicians now.
Access is more important than investigative journalism.

Posted by: SPENCER | August 21, 2008 1:25 PM

It's easy: declare the RNC a criminal organization intent on subverting the nation, seize all their computers and hubs, and then send all the hard drives to FBI labs to retrieve everything ever recorded on them. Computer systems are generally programmed to make redundant backups so crooked employees cannot erase evidence of their actions. I doubt this gang of clowns was smart enough to eradicate all traces, unless they hired experts to do their dirty work.

Posted by: the Bush whacker | August 21, 2008 1:33 PM

The "disappearance" is not a bug, it is a feature of the "antiquated" system. You can be sure that Dick Cheney has copies of all of it in his man-sized safe.

Posted by: austex | August 21, 2008 1:45 PM

The more our personal right to privacy and dignity as human beings is stripped to nothing by this gang of thugs,the more "privacy" they accord to themselves .

Posted by: thopaine | August 21, 2008 4:25 PM

They can copy every computer in the country, and all the phone calls and they can't copy their own e mails? I find that hardly believable I am sure the NSA or someone could bring those e mails back to life or did they take hammers to the servers that store the data the WH has incoming and outgoing texts? Why can;t the FBI or NSA dig out the info from the RNC? Who made all these people above the law?

Posted by: Mike | August 21, 2008 4:43 PM

Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, G Bush, etc. CYA. These people are scum, haters of rep. democracy. In other words, what Sean Hannity calls a good American. It's time, by that definition, to be a "bad" American. Oppose the corruption of your govt. Oil free in 10 yrs. Free public healthcare. Rewrite corporate definition of personhood. No more privatization of the commons for the benefit of the top 1%, carried out by thugs like Rove, Delay, Bolton etc.... Woodward? WaPo is spineless. Hiatt is a hack for the war profiteers and treasury looters. Instead of Chandra Levy, you might seriously attack attacks on our privacy (FISA), the looting of our treasury over past 30 years, Katrina, Blackwater/Halliburton/Cheney.... & the K Street/Penn Ave cycle of disgrace.

Posted by: artforhumans | August 21, 2008 4:58 PM

Anyone who thinks the Republic is not in danger is not keeping up.

Posted by: Paul R. Cooper | August 21, 2008 6:29 PM

Archival and records management issues are very complicated. I wish the Washington Post would take them more seriously than it does. While I suppose readers with a superficial interest in these matters should be grateful that the newspaper prints or posts occasional articles which take a minimalist or glancing view at the issues, the newspaper never has taken a deep and insightful look at archival issues or at the Presidential Records Act.

Perhaps that is not possible. I know a great deal about how the National Archives (my former employer) handles historical Presidential records and records declassification. Just this past week, I was astonished to read this on Politico about the new book on the Iraq War that Bob Woodward of the Post is about to have published next month:

"Alice Mayhew, editorial director of Simon & Schuster and the book’s editor, said in a statement: 'There has not been such an authoritative and intimate account of presidential decision making since the Nixon tapes and the Pentagon Papers. This is the declassification of what went on in secret, behind the scenes.'”

What a sad and inappropriate statement but one which I am afraid Mr. Woodward might not understand that he would be better off rebutting.

Historians know that the real heroes are not the people who sit and interview officials or accept documents from them. Rather, they are the nonpartisan federal archivists at the National Archivists -- my former colleagues -- who labor under difficult circumstances to screen for public release Presidential records and federal records. They work to balance competing stakeholder interests, none of which involve personal gain or self aggrandizement. Of course, inherent character and personal integrity explain why such civil servants study history and then go into public service in the first place.

I salute the federal archivists who work with White House records after a President leaves office. I cannot say that based on their recent work, I can salute Mr. Woodward or his employers. That's too bad, a lot of talent evidently has gone to waste.

Posted by: Former Archivist | August 21, 2008 8:25 PM

Some of the other things reported missing were:

Integrity
Faith
Honesty
Compassion
Sanity
Tax Dollars
The Football
Signs of intelligent life

This was reported by some people looking for Rice so they could smash her teeth down her throat with an aluminum baseball bat to see if it's an improvement over that real smug, condescending voice she usually sports.

Posted by: K Ackermann | August 21, 2008 8:27 PM

Sorry this sentence may be unclear: "They work to balance competing stakeholder interests, none of which involve personal gain or self aggrandizement." A better way of saying that is "They work to balance competing stakeholder interests, none *of their archival work* involves personal gain or self aggrandizement."

Posted by: Former Archivist | August 21, 2008 8:30 PM

Another example of pure incompetence of this administration. How many more days are left before this clown leaves office??

Posted by: cvc | August 21, 2008 9:26 PM


The only way those e-mails are really lost is IF... the actual hard drives were completely and deliberately destroyed.

Any forensic IT professional worth their own salt can recover deleted hard drive data even after numerous over-write attempts with the right equipment.

The sheer magnitude of this administration's abuse of power, secrecy and deception is beyond comprehension,
yet they've managed to avoid prison for now.

The Mind Boggles

Posted by: OgreDaddy | August 22, 2008 1:21 AM


Sorry, you know the law doesn't apply to the White House...

this White House.

Posted by: don't be silly | August 22, 2008 3:23 PM

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