[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday denied [opinion, PDF] a government motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] and the National Security Archive [official website] seeking access to e-mail records from the White House Office of Administration (OA) [official website] under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Judge Henry Kennedy rejected the government's arguments that compliance with statutory presidential records requirements is not subject to judicial review, that the court lacked the proper jurisdiction and authority to potentially order retrieval of the records, and that the plaintiffs did not suffer actual injury that could be redressed by a favorable decision, and ruled that the case could move forward. CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan welcomed [press release] the ruling:
The Court has rejected the administrations argument and upheld CREWs right to sue the White House for failing to comply with the Federal Records Act. The White House, which values secrecy above nearly all else, finally will be held accountable for the millions of missing emails.AP has more.
The roots of the case go back to 2002 [chronology], when the White House dismantled its automated e-mail archiving system. CREW brought its lawsuit in May 2007, followed in November 2007 by the National Security Archive lawsuit [complaints, PDF], to gain access to information regarding potential lost e-mails from 2003 to 2005 at the Executive Office of the President. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy throughout the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation and then again during the US Attorney firing scandal [JURIST news archives]. In February, CREW urged US Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint a special counsel [JURIST report] to investigate whether the White House had violated the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act [texts] in failing to preserve White House e-mails. CREW has publicly alleged that White House officials may have deliberately lost or tampered with e-mail records to hide illegal conduct.