White House tells everybody to relax over email recoveries

The Bush administration last week filed responses to a federal magistrate judge’s questions relating to ongoing litigation over what critics say is thousands of missing e-mails. Administration lawyers submitted a 22-page legal brief and a 7-page declaration from Theresa Payton, CIO of the White House’s Office of Administration. The brief strenuously objected to the demands of the lead plaintiff, the National Security Archive (which filed suit alongside Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), that special measures be taken to preserve hard drives and removable media that could be useful in future forensic efforts to retrieve e-mails.

Federal law requires executive branch agencies, including the Executive Office of the President, to preserve e-mails related to the performance of their official duties. The National Security Archive (NSA) claims that the White House has failed to preserve approximately five million e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005.

The White House protests that it has already preserved sufficient backup tapes to enable future recovery of any missing emails. It says that there are now 60,000 backup tapes in storage, including 438 “disaster recovery” backup tapes that were made during the critical period of March to October of 2003. Payton says that these backup tapes “should” contain “substantially all” of the emails in question. (link)


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