White House office ordered to search for e-mail messages
A federal judge today ordered officials of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to
search the workstations of people who worked in that office from March
2003 through October 2005 for millions of e-mail messages that two
groups suing the White House allege were lost during that time period.
Judge Henry Kennedy of United
States District Court for the District of Columbia
also ordered officials of that office to collect and preserve any e-mail
messages that were sent or received during that period. EOP officials are also to collect from the office's employees any electronic media that may
contain e-mail messages from that time and preserve them.
order comes just days before the inauguration, when
presidential documents are to be handed over to the National Archives
for safekeeping to comply with the Presidential Records Act.
order for extended preservation stems from litigation brought by George
Washington University’s National Security Archive.
organizations alleged that the Bush administration violated
the Federal Records Act (FRA) by not recovering, restoring and
preserving electronic communications and establishing an electronic
records management system that complies with the FRA. The messages that
allegedly were lost are from a time that includes the
invasion of Iraq, key developments in the Valerie Plame leak
investigation and the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
six days, the Bush Executive Office of the President will be gone and
their records may disappear with them,” Tom Blanton, the university archive’s director, said in a statement. “The White House will
complain about the last minute challenge, but this is a records crisis
of the WH own making.”
A White House spokeswoman said in an e-mail message that officials were reviewing the order and will comply. The
Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed; however,
Kennedy ruled last November that the case could move forward.
The university archive’s
lawsuit and a similar one by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington were filed in September 2007 and have since been consolidated.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.