From the Washington Post:
WASHINGTON — When Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald wanted to find out what was going on inside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, the prosecutor in the CIA leak probe made a logical move. He dropped a grand jury subpoena on the White House for all the relevant e-mail.
One problem: Even though White House computer technicians hunted high and low, an entire week’s worth of e-mail from Cheney’s office was missing. The week was Sept. 30, 2003, to Oct. 6, 2003, the opening days of the Justice Department’s probe into whether anyone at the White House leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
That episode was part of the picture that unfolded Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where Democrats on a House committee released new information about one of the Bush White House’s long-running issues, its problem-plagued e-mail system.
[Former White House computer technician Steven] McDevitt said that one estimate from a 2005 analysis was that more than 1,000 days of e-mail were missing from January 2003 to Aug. 10, 2005. McDevitt said “the process by which e-mail was being collected and retained was primitive and the risk that data would be lost was high.” The “low end” estimate was about 470 days, he added.
“We are very energized about getting to the bottom of this” issue, Theresa Payton, chief information officer at the White House Office of Administration, testified to the committee.
“This is a form of sandbagging,” replied Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who pointed out that by the time the White House fixes its e-mail problems, “you’ll be out of office.”
A new e-mail archiving system that would have addressed the problems was “ready to go live” on Aug. 21, 2006.
Payton told Waxman’s committee she canceled the new system in late 2006 because it would have required modifications and additional spending. An alternative system is under way, she said.
Payton’s predecessor, Carlos Solari, told the House committee that he was puzzled that the new system had been rejected and that he had “absolutely” believed that the system Payton rejected would be implemented.
From CNET News:
Democrats and Republicans were warring Tuesday over reports that the White House has “lost”–or simply failed to keep–archives of e-mails belonging to the president and his advisers.
Since last spring, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has been investigating reports that an estimated 5 million messages from 473 days between 2003 and 2005 allegedly vanished from e-mail servers housed within the president’s office.
“We still know virtually nothing about the status of the alleged missing White House e-mails,” said Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States, said the National Archives and Records Administration had similarly gotten no response from the White House to its queries about what’s going on. “I’m concerned about maintaining the fullest possible presidential records,” he told the committee.
A separate issue under scrutiny revolves around charges that Karl Rove and some 50 other presidential advisers were using Republican National Committee accounts to conduct official business and thus subvert federal record-keeping laws. The RNC has said it had virtually no records of e-mails sent on its servers by Rove and others before November 2003, which Democrats argue is troubling because those messages may contain important official information about the president’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
Waxman said he heard from RNC officials as recently as Monday that the White House had made no effort to request backup tapes from the committee that may contain those files. He scolded White House officials for their inaction. Both Payton and her boss, White House Office of Administration director Alan Swendiman, said they wouldn’t be responsible for making such requests but would look into who is.
“Are we simply going on a fishing expedition at $40,000 to $50,000 a month?” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked National Archives and White House officials at the hearing. “Do any of you know of a single document, because this committee doesn’t, that should’ve been in the archives but in fact was done at the RNC?”
“I think the issue is always, were there official government public records on that system?” responded Gary Stern, general counsel to the National Archives.
The loss of documents in either case is potentially significant because federal laws, including the Presidential Records Act, requires the White House to preserve all documents related to the president and vice president’s official business and turn them over to the National Archives. Personal records, including political campaign-related materials, are expected to be filed separately and not subject to the same restrictions. The matter has already sparked a lawsuit from an advocacy group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Don’t forget, kids, it’s Wednesday!