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Watchdog Group Obtains More Documents In 'Missing' Bush-Era E-Mails Case

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Thursday, 02 July 2009 10:58

The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released additional documents Thursday related to the organization's long-running lawsuit over the "disappearance" of as many as 15 million Bush administration e-mails.

Thursday's batch of documents turned over to CREW by the Obama administration "appear to be copies of documents the Bush White House gave to the House Oversight Committee several years ago" when the panel was chaired by Congressman Henry Waxman. The California Democrat launched a wide-ranging probe into the matter after CREW revealed the Bush administration appeared to have purged it's e-mails in violation of federal law.

"A significant portion of the documents are emails and spreadsheets prepared by the Office of Administration in 2005 and early 2006 as it discovered the missing emails and analyzed the scope of the problem," CREW said in a statement Thursday. "As in the last production, virtually all names have been blacked out with no explanations for the redactions. The spreadsheets and other computer listings detail the days and components for which emails are missing and appear to be the output of computer processes used to identify the contents of the PST files in which White House emails were stored.

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"During this same time frame, the White House was responding to subpoenas for documents related to the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert CIA identity, and the documents include discussions of problems in locating responsive Office of the Vice President (OVP) emails as well as spreadsheets of OVP emails from October 13, 2003, sorted by name, size and number of items."

CREW further added:

    Significantly, the documents include an analysis dated November 2007 "" when CREW's lawsuit was first filed "" of the Office of Administration's report of its findings. OAP00004640. These documents conclusively demonstrate that at the same time the Bush administration was publicly proclaiming there was no missing email problem, administration officials had in hand an internal analysis detailing just such a problem. More simply, the documents prove the administration lied.

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    Other documents are related to the Office of Administration's attempt in 2007-08 to analyze how many and which emails were missing, and to restore a limited number of them from backup tapes. This process is ongoing despite the fact the Obama administration moved to dismiss the lawsuit in January claiming it had done all that is legally required.

    In testimony before Congress in February 2008, then Office of Administration Chief Information Officer Theresa Payton suggested emails might not actually have been missing. These documents reveal the White House was well aware of the problem.

Last month, documents in the e-mail case turned over to CREW revealed that some Bush administration officials were aware of the e-mail archiving problem as early as February 2004, when the White House was attempting to respond to an unidentified grand jury subpoena from the Justice Department believed to be related to the Plame investigation.

Those documents confirmed that in October 2005, the White House discovered millions of emails had disappeared. The documents also showed that emails Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had subpoenaed in connection with the Plame investigation were missing from Vice President Cheney's office.

The documents turned over to CREW and George Washington University's National Security Archive (which brought a separate lawsuit that was consolidated with CREW's), the Obama administration marked some of the documents "sensitive," said it was not subject to public disclosure, and redacted the identities and contact information of virtually all individuals named in the documents.

The Public Record has reported extensively on the "missing" Bush administration e-mails, many of which covered the time frame leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings, and the Plame leak.

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The email controversy first surfaced in January 2006 when Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the leak of Plame's undercover CIA status, said in a court filing following the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff I. Lewis Scooter Libby that he "learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."

In October of 2005, the Office of Administration discovered that White House e-mails had not been archived in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. The Office of Administration had briefed former White House Counsel Harriet Miers about the lost e-mails.

Miers is said to have immediately informed Fitzgerald about the issue. Fitzgerald had been investigating White House officials' role in the Plame leak and subpoenaed White House e-mails sent in 2003. Fitzgerald stated in a 2006 court filing that some e-mails in the Office of the President and Vice President had not been turned over to federal investigators working on the leak probe.

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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