How quickly we forget. Of course, I remembered this scandal. And as usual, this was not mention in the media.
The revelation came when Congress was looking into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Investigators found that several White House officials, including top adviser Karl Rove, had been using private email accounts set up on a Republican National Committee server for White House business. Those emails were not properly archived.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (NSA) reached a final settlement of their long-running lawsuits challenging the failure of the Bush White House and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to take any action after confronted with evidence that millions of emails had gone missing from Bush White House servers over a two and one-half year period. The lawsuits followed CREW’s revelation in April 2008 that the White House had discovered the problem in the fall of 2005. Nevertheless, the Bush White House failed to recover or restore the missing emails and knowingly continued to use a broken system for preserving electronic records.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) will restore a total of 94 days of missing emails, which will then be sent to NARA for preservation and eventual access under either the Presidential Records Act or the Federal Records Act. The dates for restoration were chosen based on email volume and external events because there simply was not enough money to restore all the missing emails. In addition, the EOP will continue to provide CREW and the NSA with records documenting the missing email problem, the response of the Bush White House to that problem, and the options the Bush White House considered for preserving electronic records, but inexplicably rejected.
Documents produced so far show the Bush White House was lying when officials claimed no emails were ever missing. The record now proves incontrovertibly that Bush administration officials deliberately ignored the problem and, in fact, knowingly allowed it to worsen. Some questions remain unanswered. Why, after the Office of Administration told then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers about the problem and presented her with a plan to restore the emails, did she do nothing? Why did the White House abandon — at the last minute — a system it had developed to manage and preserve electronic records, despite having spent millions to create it? Did the Bush White House properly respond to requests for records from the Department of Justice and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald during the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity?
CREW’s report is based on a review of tens of thousands of pages of Bush-era documents provided to CREW and the National Security Archive as part of their multi-year lawsuit over the missing emails.Among the report’s key findings:
- Missing emails included emails from the Office of the Vice President for a critical period in the fall of 2003 that were sought by the Department of Justice as part of its investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity. Files that should have contained these emails also were missing from backup tapes for that period and in its efforts to restore those emails from individual users’ mailboxes, the Bush White House excluded the mailbox of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby from those being restored.
- Years before its discovery in October 2005 that millions of emails were missing from White House servers, the Bush White House received multiple warnings from multiple sources, including the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), that emails were at risk of destruction.
- After spending millions of dollars and years of effort creating an effective electronic record keeping system called the Electronic Communications Records Management System (ECRMS), the Bush White House abandoned ECRMS on the eve of its deployment offering explanations that NARA, among others, did not find reasonable.
- In the end, the White House spent between $10 and $15 million to restore emails from just 48 components days.
“Sadly, the American people will never know the full truth of just what went on inside the Bush White House as decisions affecting all of our lives were made,” said Ms. Sloan. “Despite repeated warnings that information was being lost, Bush administration officials repeatedly and willfully turned a blind eye to the problem.”
Click here to read the full report “The Untold Story of the Bush White House Emails” (.pdf)
Read the report’s executive summary here (.pdf)
All of the documents produced by the White House in the lawsuits brought by CREW and the National Security Archive, except those marked “sensitive” by the White House and not subject to public disclosure, are available by clicking the links below