NARA guidance under scrutiny
- By William Matthews
- Apr 26, 2000
Guidance that the National Archives and Records Administration gave the
White House on preserving presidential records is the latest item under
scrutiny in the investigation of the White House e-mail system.
Independent Counsel Robert Ray has ordered the Archives to turn over instructions
the recordkeeping agency gave the White House on managing official records.
Lawyers for NARA are preparing to respond to an April 18 subpoena from Ray.
The information they plan to supply is general in nature and does not apply
just to electronic records, NARA spokeswoman Susan Cooper said.
As the nation's official recordkeeper, NARA establishes standards for what
constitutes an official record and determines how long different kinds of
records must be kept. In the case of the White House, if material relates
to carrying out the ceremonial or statutory duties of the president, they
are considered official records, Cooper said.
While a president is in office, the Archives serves only as an adviser in
regards to records. The agency does not take custody of presidential records
until a president leaves office. "We have a more limited role" with the
White House than with other federal agencies, an Archives official said.
Ray's office is trying to uncover why the White House failed to examine
thousands of e-mail messages when it was ordered to turn over records during
various investigations of the Clinton administration.
White House officials have blamed a computer error for failing to properly
save e-mail messages that might relate to fund-raising improprieties.