Judge orders NARA to stop destruction of electronic docs

A federal judge yesterday ordered the National Archives and Records Administration to require agencies to preserve or dispose of electronic records according to a temporary policy issued last month.

In a blunt ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman said the government had ignored his decision last October overturning a NARA policy, known as General Records Schedule 20, that let agencies delete e-mail and word processing files if they printed out paper copies. The government is appealing this decision, but in the meantime, Friedman said, agencies have to abide by it.

The order means agencies may no longer follow the old policy. Instead, Friedman said agencies must, from now on, make specific plans to preserve or dispose of important electronic records according to a temporary policy, Bulletin 98-02, that NARA issued last month. In addition, he gave NARA three months to propose more permanent rules and five months to make them final—- targets the agency had already set for itself.

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