[JURIST] White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto Thursday dismissed allegations that millions of electronic messages prior to October 2003 had been deleted, saying the White House had found no evidence that any electronic data had been lost. Fratto told [press briefing] reporters that:
We have absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing; there's no evidence of that ... from everything that we can tell, our analysis of our backup systems, we have no reason to believe that any e-mail at all are missing.This may contradict earlier reports that indicated data had in fact been lost; in 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] said he had learned in his investigation of the CIA leak scandal [JURIST news archive] that e-mails from that time period from the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President had not been saved through the standard archiving process on the White House computer system. The White House admitted [JURIST report] late Tuesday that it had recycled its back-up computer tapes of e-mails prior to October 2003.
In November 2007, US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [JURIST report] the White House to preserve all of its e-mail records by saving back-up disks after private advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] requested a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] to stop deletion. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation into the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity, and again during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. If e-mails were in fact erased, the White House may have violated the Presidential Records Act [text], which requires the preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal or presidential records. AP has more.