Court Rules Against Bush on Missing E-Mails
Two watchdog organizations scored a legal victory this week when a federal court denied a motion by the Bush administration to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the White House's failure to properly store and recover millions of e-mails.
The e-mails are thought to pertain to several controversial issues including the Iraq war, the Valerie Plame leak and the CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive originally filed suit to gain access to a secret White House study documenting the loss of millions of e-mails from Bush's first three years in office.
The White House acknowledged the missing e-mails in response to the lawsuit, but refused to make them public. The controversy brought swift congressional scrutiny, with Henry Waxman (D.-Calif), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, noting "serious questions" about the administration's lack of an electronic archiving system. In 2002, the Bush administration stopped using the electronic recording program used under President Bill Clinton, and failed to install a new system.
Throughout the controversy, the White House has largely been able to deflect demands by advocacy groups, according to Mother Jones.
Meredith Fuchs, general counsel for the National Security Archive, dismissed the White House's attempt to hold up the case, calling Monday's ruling a "tremendous victory." Fuchs also said the onus of retrieving the missing tapes will now likely fall on President-elect Barack Obama's administration.
Throughout his campaign, Obama indicated that his administration would be more transparent than his predecessor's. Watchdog groups have expressed hope that Obama will release the missing e-mails, as the Clinton Administration did after being sued over its handling of e-mail records.
Whatever Obama decides, fear persists that many of the missing e-mails may be lost forever.
"I have some great worries about what the record of this administration is going to harvest, because they have done everything they can to slow down and obstruct the Freedom of Information Act," presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told Mother Jones. "I'm afraid of the sanitization process that will occur, because they don't have a sense of historical integrity."
A copy of the memorandum opinion and order in CREW v. Executive Office of the President issued Monday in which D.C. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy upheld lawsuits brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive.
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