White House Must Answer Questions About Missing White House E-mails, Magistrate Judge Rules

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In an Order issued today, Magistrate Judge Facciola of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the White House to answer questions about over 5 million missing e-mails generated between 2003-2005. Noting that the need for information the missing e-mails is "time-sensitive" because of the risk that stored copied of the e-mails "are increasingly likely to be deleted or overridden with the passage of time," the Court demanded answers in a sworn declaration by January 13, 2008 about the location of the missing e-mails.

"To date, the White House has evaded answering questions about whether it permanently destroyed over 5 million e-mails about issues such as Hurricane Katrina, the firing of United States Attorneys, and the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent," commented Meredith Fuchs, the Archive's General Counsel. "This Order will force the Executive Office of the President to tell the public whether it really erased key records of the nation's history or whether it has made any effort to preserve the information."

The order issued today come in National Security Archive v. Executive Office of the President (EOP), et al. Previously, Judge Kennedy ordered the preservation of EOP backup tapes and the consolidation of this case (filed September 5, 2007) with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) v. Executive Office of the President, et al. (filed September 25, 2007).

To date, the White House has had the following to say about the missing e-mails:

"I wouldn't rule out that there were a potential 5 million emails lost"
- Press Gaggle by Dana Perino (April 13, 2007)

"[W]e are aware that there could have been some emails that were not automatically archived because of a technical issue."
- Press Briefing by Dana Perino (April 16, 2007)

"CREW has yet to provide any basis for their assertions -- be it their original assertion, or their new claim. We are aware that some e-mails may not have been automatically archived in the past, but they may be available on backup tapes. Unlike what the liberal group CREW has asserted, we've never been without a backup system. The Office of Administration at the White House has been maintaining and preserving backup tapes for the official email system."
- Scott Stanzel, White House Spokesman

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