White House facing lawsuit over millions of 'missing' e-mails

[JURIST] The National Security Archive [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] Wednesday against the Executive Office of the President [official website] and other presidential affiliates to compel recovery of 5 million electronic messages that apparently went missing from White House computers between March 2003 and October 2005. The missing e-mails became the subject of controversy during the investigation of the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and became material again in the recent Congressional probe into the DOJ firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. The complaint alleges:

[T]he e-mails at issue were improperly deleted from servers maintained by the Executive Office of the President and currently exist only on back-up tapes. Unless relief is granted and the e-mails expeditiously restored from the back-up tapes, these federal and presidential records may be lost forever.
The lawsuit also seeks an order requiring the government to replace its previous archival management system - abandoned by the White House in 2002 - with one that complies with federal law. The complaint states:
[I]n the absence of an adequate archival system, e-mails continue to be deleted improperly from the servers. Despite the fact that the Office of Administration has proposed a plan to restore the deleted e-mails and to implement an appropriate archival management system, no such plan has been implemented by the White House, again in violation of federal law.
According to the suit, the White House has violated both the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act [texts] in its deletion of e-mails and failure to implement a new system.

In June, the US House of Representatives Oversight Committee found [JURIST report] that the White House had been using e-mail accounts issued by the Republican National Committee (RNC) [party website] in order to circumvent the PRA, which requires the preservation of presidential records on all activities "that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties." The Oversight Committee found that there had been "extensive destruction" of e-mail records of officials who had been using RNC accounts. AP has more.

 

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