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White House Must Answer For Missing Emails 256

Posted by Soulskill
from the show-me-the-deleted-emails dept.
Lucas123 writes "A District Court judge this week ruled in favor of a Washington-based watchdog group, allowing them to question White House officials about missing emails involving controversial issues. The subjects include the release of the identity of a former CIA operative, the reasons for launching the war in Iraq and actions by the US Department of Justice. The group had filed suit [PDF] last May against the White House Office of Administration, seeking access to White House email under the federal Freedom of Information Act. The discovery ruling is bringing to light issues of email retention in businesses and other private organizations. We've previously discussed the White House's difficulties with email."
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White House Must Answer For Missing Emails

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  • Recycling (Score:3, Funny)

    by milsoRgen (1016505) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:05PM (#22429612) Homepage
    But I thought the white house was simply recycling their data storage media by overwriting it with more current data. Poor W. he can't win for nothing...
  • Expected answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Protonk (599901) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:05PM (#22429618) Homepage
    "They are missing, and we can't retrive them. We forget what was on them. Oops."

    Sorry folks, but political operators learned from nixon. Don't keep evidence of malfeasance. Don't lie explicitly, just claim to not remember or not be in the loop. Delay, delay, delay, delay. This isn't going to be a watershed event. Odds are if those emails really ARE incriminating, then they are long, long gone.
    • Re:Expected answer (Score:5, Informative)

      by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:17PM (#22429730)
      If they lost them, which they couldn't have (and after Senator Leahy called them out on this [npr.org] they somewhat admitted that they were lost not destroyed), then they've broken the Presidential Records Act [wikipedia.org]. Actually, we probably have evidence of this already since White House staffers like Karl Rove have been circumventing official record keeping by using Republican National Committee email accounts for official business [house.gov]. Amazing how a little oversight uncovers so much dirt...
      • Re:Expected answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Protonk (599901) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:27PM (#22429832) Homepage
        and what's the end result of that? Is karl rove in jail for violating presidential records acts? Are those emails in the hands of prosecutors? Is there a prosecutor assigned? Are we likely to have an honest answer as to what happened before 2009? No. Rove et al used RNC email addresses to avoid archiving requirements as they engineered US elections by steering justice dept actions. That much is patently clear. When it looked like this was going to backfire, those emails got deleted and the participants either 'forgot' their content or refused to testify.

        We agree on one thing, there was (and still is), very little oversight. It should stand as our enduring shame that senate and house oversight committees are spending time going after baseball and football scandals while our constitution burns.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jd (1658)
          Rove, et al, have worked so desperately hard to create an illusion of guilt hiding in innocence that it is almost impossible for them to have been as guilty as they have made themselves look. It's a wonderful paradox. Like a small child who pretends it was the invisible man, the pretense magnifies any real guilt as well as an electron tunneling microscope and the pretense adds to that guilt. This is not political, in that most people do the same thing. It's just that humanity has had a few hundred thousand
      • Re:Expected answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:31PM (#22429858) Homepage Journal

        then they've broken the Presidential Records Act
        So what? There are no criminal penalties involved. It would be worth noting if this violation could be noted for impeachment proceedings, but Congress isn't going to impeach W. Not unless he does something really evil, like having sex with an intern.
        • by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:50PM (#22429996)
          So what? There are no criminal penalties involved.

          You don't get it, do you? When you mess with the Presidential Records Act, you're messing with the entire National Archives system. That means they take away your National Archives Library Card. Want to check out that official copy of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill, or the Marine Mammal Protection Act? Sorry, buster. You're gonna have to make do with a photocopy. And guess what? Without that card, you can still get in to see the Constitution... but not after hours.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by click2005 (921437)
          If either Bush or Cheney were impeached, arrested and locked up I bet the other would pardon him right before he left office.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Protonk (599901)
          Also, your comment about jury nullification probably sucked. I remember wanting to mod down ranting morons in that discussion. Slashdot commentators are actually MUCH, MUCH better than the average schlubs on say youtube, cnn, time, etc. Those people make me REALLY scared for the future, but we have problems with people wanting bizzare extrajudicial and extralegal solutions to non-issues. That topic suggesting that the jury nullify the verdict and ignore instruction is about as sensical as the foaming at
          • Not to drag this further off-topic, but if you'd read his comment, he was agreeing with your position, as stated in your post just now.

            Besides, in any case, the AC said that he modded down cause he disagreed. That is pretty much sucking as a moderator, by definition.

        • It was messing a pretty blue dress and wasting a fine cigar.
        • Re:Expected answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:14AM (#22430514)
          They didn't prosecute Clinton for the sex, they prosecuted him for lying under oath. The only time Bush ever lied under oath was when he took the oath to uphold the Constitution. But no one takes that one seriously anyway.
        • by Kenrod (188428)

          Or lying under oath.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)
      Alberto-i-do-not-recall-Gonzales
      http://www.google.com/search?q= [google.com]"i+do+not+recall"

      I wonder if the questioning will be under oath & videotaped.
      At the minimum it'll make for a funny highlight reel.
    • /dev/null (Score:4, Funny)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:20PM (#22429758)
      I stored them there.... I swear it.... now they're gone!
    • Re:Expected answer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zollui (1230734) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:34PM (#22429884)
      There's a government mechanism for dealing with such matters which people here might find surprising.

      In fulfilment of a legal obligation. a request will be made to administrators and office staff to check their email accounts for the 'missing email'. The managers will accept the word of the staff under them, who will typically eyeball their inbox in Outlook before reporting 'no, haven't got it'.

      Don't assume they're grepping through their servers because if they're just responding to a freedom of information request, they're not. They will restrict themselves to a search that seems 'reasonable' in the eyes of a technological illiterate, that's all.
    • by Kingrames (858416)
      Karl Rove and Dick Cheney worked for Nixon.
      Provided that those two actually answer for their crimes, "Watergate" won't be an example of how to get away with it anymore.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:05PM (#22429628)
    White House to court: Make us.

    Shit, I'm forgetting what the the request was but Congress asked the Attorney General to investigate someone. The reply: "That was a pointed and direct request so I will make sure my answer is pointed and direct: no."

    So, what's the next step, send the sgt. at arms to haul their asses in?
    • by Protonk (599901)
      The request was if the Atty. Gen. would enforce contempt citations against members of the exec branch who are said to be exercising executive privilege. Once given a direct and unambigious question, the atty. general (the new one, supposedly some great shakes compared to gonzo) said no.

      Technically the congress could order the sgt. at arms to haul the people in to testify, but it is more likely that they will sue the white house, as I think the last time they compelled testimony w/o the DC US attorney
      • by milsoRgen (1016505) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:15PM (#22429708) Homepage

        Technically the congress could order the sgt. at arms to haul the people in to testify
        But which one to use?

        Wilson Livingood [wikipedia.org] or Terrance W. Gainer [wikipedia.org]

        I say send in Gainer to 'em soften up before Livingood can come in and finish the job.
        • by Protonk (599901)
          me too. Mustaches scare the bejesus out of me.
        • by Zeinfeld (263942)
          But which one to use?

          Its a House contempt proceeding so it would be Livingood's office. He does not have to do it himself, he has a staff. They are trained cops or secret service. They have guns and stuff.

          The potential for this to all spiral out of control is quite significant. The Whitehouse is determined not to budge an inch. The House have every right to demand answers to their questions.

          The Republican party can hardly want this particular fight to be taking center stage, reminding voters of the od

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by freedom_india (780002)

            Its a House contempt proceeding so it would be Livingood's office.

            No, its Not. The Sgt At Arms is responsible for the safety and security of congress critters, senators, visiting dignitaries. That's all.
            Unless they see a threat to lives of congress critters, they won't do a job of arresting anybody.
            However, the House could order DC Sherrif to prosecute Bush and Cheney as individuals maximum.

            I bet it would be one helluva gunfight to watch DC cops battle it out with Secret Service.
            I can see the headlines in Fox TV now: "President under attack by crazy cops. 11 dead. News a

        • by HidingMyName (669183) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:59AM (#22431052)
          As mentioned in one of the other replies most likely Livingood, since he works for the House of Representatives, who voted on contempt today. If I understand, there are 2 forms of contempt of congress, typically congress uses a variant that goes through the executive branch for enforcement, but there is also a variant called inherent contempt [wikipedia.org] that is enforced directly by congress, via the sargeant at arms. However Gainer's web page [senate.gov] has an interesting quote (maybe a hint?).

          The Sergeant at Arms is authorized to arrest and detain any person violating Senate rules, including the President of the United States.
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:10PM (#22429672)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGpWtTJmfvY [youtube.com]

      Ah, here it is. We don't torture, never tortured, oh wait, we tortured three people. So now will we investigate? No. Fucker.
      • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:31PM (#22429850) Homepage Journal
        Why prosecute when a SCOTUS justice indicates that he would reverse on appeal?

        US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Tuesday defended the use of harsh physical interrogation techniques, saying in an interview with Law in Action on BBC Radio 4 that they may be justified to deter an immediate threat. Scalia argued that "so-called torture" may not necessarily be prohibited by the US constitution, as he said the Eighth Amendment bar against "cruel and unusual punishment" was only intended to apply to criminal punishments:

        Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited under the Constitution? Because smacking someone in the face would violate the Eighth Amendment in a prison context. You can't go around smacking people about. Is it obvious that what can't be done for punishment can't be done to exact information that is crucial to this society? It's not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth.
        Just to mollify shoot-the-messenge moderators, I favor impeaching Scalia for this.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Protonk (599901)
          While I know you agree with me, the rub is of course that such treatment is a violation of treaties the US has entered in to and laws passed by congress in order to comply with those treaties. I don't think too many people are suggesting that 8th ammd. protection applies here. That is one of the reasons while Gitmo was chosen over Charleston (the original detainee site).

          And, IMO, the imminent threat theory is a terrible, terrible, terrible legal justification, what a shame that no one is in a position
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:42AM (#22430660)
          What really bothers me about this constitution - torture debate is that it sidesteps the important issue.

          Torture is wrong.

          Its what the enemy is supposed to do, not us (or I should say you, since I'm Canadian), it doesn't matter if you can magic the constitution into yet-another-bible to be interpreted into supporting whatever you feel like.

          And frankly, if you do torture someone to get important info, and you get caught: you say "sorry, it was wrong," and you fire/jail the guy that did it. What kind of government are you running down there anyway? Why are these guys still in power?

          I was watching Red October the other day, and was amused that the 1st officer was looking forward to defecting because he could go from state to state without papers.... we'll see how long that lasts...

          (I'm not wearing my tin foil hat, so posting anonymous)
          • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:53AM (#22431016) Homepage Journal

            What kind of government are you running down there anyway?
            We made the mistake of letting people like you run it. Well, not exactly like you, but people who are like you in that they are absolutely sure that they know what is right and wrong.
            And that was our mistake. We should have stuck with people who know what the constitution says. The US constitution, even with all it's shortcomings, at least provides some protection. Even allowing for differences in interpretation, it still provides some protection.
            But if you put a guy in office who believes that he can do anything as long as it is right for his country, and who further believes that he gets to determine what is right and nobody can second guess him, then he can do anything.

            You see, the issue is not 'is torture wrong?', the issue is 'is torture unconstitutional?'

            Why are these guys still in power?
            Because we still have, embedded in our political processes, some remnants of respect for the constitution. And because of Monica.

            We had a close call a few years back, almost impeaching a guy for a blow job. We scared ourselves on that one. Each self-rightous politician was determined to be greater in his criticism of the prez than the next guy, and it kinda got out of hand. Everybody knew that we really shouldn't do it, but nobody seemed to know exactly when to stop. I mean, nobody wanted wanted to be the guy who said 'Hey, I think blow jobs from interns are ok.' But eventually, enough people realized that if it went through, they wouldn't be getting blow jobs in the future, so it fell apart. When asked why they were changing their minds, they couldn't really come out in favor of blow jobs, so they invoked the constitution, noting that he really hadn't reached the constitutional definition of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

            Like a sailor who tacks back and forth across his intended course, sometimes to one side, sometimes to the other, we sort of follow the constitution. Sometimes we are too liberal, sometimes too cautious.
            Right now, post-blow-job, we are erring on the side of being too cautious. So faced with a president who probably does deserve to be inpeached for incompetence and the pointless deaths of 4000 of his countrymen, we pretend that the best way to get rid of him is just to let him serve out his term and then we will put someone else in by election.
          • What kind of government are you running down there anyway? Why are these guys still in power?
            CASSIUS: And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
            Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf
            But that he sees the Romans are but sheep.
            He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.
        • by Dhalka226 (559740)

          Just to mollify shoot-the-messenge moderators, I favor impeaching Scalia for this.

          You favor impeaching a Supreme Court justice for doing his job and providing his interpretation of the Constitution?

          I don't support the use of torture, but jesus, the consequences of impeaching justices for not interpreting the Constitution the same way you do are far, far worse.

          • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:21AM (#22431140) Homepage Journal

            You favor impeaching a Supreme Court justice for doing his job and providing his interpretation of the Constitution? I don't support the use of torture, but jesus, the consequences of impeaching justices for not interpreting the Constitution the same way you do are far, far worse.
            It is not for his interpretation of the constitution, but for completely ignoring it.

            The whole idea of the constitution is to limit the government. This means that sometimes you have to let the guilty go free, because an unrestrained government is far more dangerous than the few criminals who go unpunished.

            What Scalia is saying is the opposite: that you can ignore the constitution based upon individual circumstances: in particular, that you can duck the constitution based on an imminent threat. Who gets to decide if the threat is credible? Who gets to decide if it is really imminent? Well, apparently, the president. As Scalia sees it, the president can order the torture of anyone with no judicial or congressional review. This is what I mean by completely ignoring the constitution.

            By contrast, interpretation of the constitution would be something like saying 'waterboarding is not cruel and unusual.'
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          as he said the Eighth Amendment bar against "cruel and unusual punishment" was only intended to apply to criminal punishments:

          No person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself ..

          If you're torturing someone for evidence in a trial....

          ... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

          ... and if it's not as a means to collect evidence for a trial, then clearly due process of law is not being followed, which means you can't torture the person*

    • by sgt_doom (655561) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:43PM (#22429946)
      My humble suggestion would be exactly what they FBI did in the aftermath of those attacks of 9/11/01. They sent the damaged disk drives recovered from the two fallen towers to the German data recovery firm, Convar (given the possible classified nature, why wouldn't they have used government labs at NIST, NSA, DIA (yes, they have 'em), etc., or at least the state-of-the-art data recovery companies in North America? Oh yeah....Kroll purchased Convar the same time said data recovery was occurring. Oh yeah....whatever did the FBI do with the data, which a Convar spokesperson said had been successfully recovered? Oh well.......and so it goes.....
    • by rpillala (583965) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:30PM (#22430264)

      If you're referring to John Conyers asking Mukasey about the CIA tapes, then that was the question. Conyers asked if Mukasey was prepared to begin an investigation into the possibility of criminal wrongdoing in the case of destroyed CIA tapes. Mukasey said "that's a direct question, so let me give a direct answer: no I am not."

      The Daily Show may be a fake news show but there's information there.

    • by sumdumass (711423)
      That's basically what happened with Roosevelt and the new deal. A good portion of that he did was found unconstitutional and he was ordered to stop and Roosevelt said make me. That's when the court caved and expanded the interstate commerce clause to basically write an entirely new path of power for the government and perhaps the root of most of our problems today.
  • Emails? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drewmoney (1133487) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:06PM (#22429636)
    Yeah, I think they'll find Osama before they find those missing emails.
  • oh wait... its the other way around right? Whatever they find, i'm sure pardons will be given all around to both sides of the isle when Mr. Bush leaves the white house.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bootle (816136)
      Oh no, now Bush is going after Ireland?
    • Bush cannot pardon anyone who hasnt been charged or prosecuted with crimes. I'd like to think the the Democrats are playing this one smart, and wating for president fucktard to leave office before they begin their prosecution of administration officials in earnest. I am willing to be that none of the statue of limitations will run out before he leaves office. Once he's out, they can get some real justice as opposed to 'scooter libby justice'. Personally, I would like to see som legislation that double or t
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by martinQblank (1138267) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:17PM (#22429726)
    Waterboarding shouldn't be out of the question to get the answers. Right?
    • by Kingrames (858416)
      If something like freedom and democracy was at stake, then yeah, we could theoretically subject the persons involved to more aggressive interrogation tactics.

      They couldn't refute that without admitting that they were traitors to begin with.

      Still, that comment would backfire. They'd volunteer for the torture, suffer, and live through it. My guess is they've already been subjected to worse. I mean why else would anyone drink the koolaid?
    • Waterboarding shouldn't be out of the question to get the answers. Right?

      remember, kids, its not torture if its done to the government.

      or, if it yields 'more justice'. one huge lesson we have learned from our good friend mr. bush, any action is justified if Higher Good(tm) comes from it.

      find the guilty people in our government who are ruining america. yes, use torture on them. they have set their own precedent.
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        The sad part is that at the time, the percieved alternative was more attacks and possibly your life. And because of what they did when they thought your life was in danger, you mock them because you want to take a high horse.

        I sometimes wish that they didn't do the things they did so maybe additional attacks would have happen and people like you would be chanting the opposite, or feeding worms. But you see, that would be bad because innocent and undeserving people would have been effected too. So I guess I
        • by dbIII (701233)
          Experienced people in law enforcement everywhere know that torture is a tragic bit of incompetance that does nothing useful unless your aim is to inspire terror. The problem is inexperienced uncontrolled spooks and political appointees flailing about because they had to do something or the professionals would replace them.

          They thought it was a good idea at the time and didn't know enough to know better - not much of an excuse really. These people are mocked for a very good reason.

          • by sumdumass (711423)
            Yea, and we have seen the shows, the movies, and heard all the stories about when someone knows someone is going to be killed, they ruff them up to get the answer, Yes, they torture to get an answer.

            They may deserve ridicule and mockery. I'm just commenting on "who" and "why" they did it so maybe in between jabs, you can thank your lucky stars that someone cared for you more then you care for them. That's all. Nothing more, you can go back to mockery and verbally attacking the people who subjected themselve
        • by Omestes (471991)
          I wish they wouldn't have, even if we were attacked as a result (which is dubious). But then again I am one of those old fashioned folk who think that Thomas Paine was on the ball with his Rights of Man, and believe that your only as good as your actions. If we disregard human rights, even of those who are guilty, we probably deserve the same respect that we offer others, meaning none. This can be generally construed as a carde blanche in favor of torturing American's.

          And AS the current, albeit declining
  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:28PM (#22429838)
    I am curious whether email can even get lost accidentally in the first place. A handwritten letter, fine, but email gets written, saved, archived, sent to the server, copied, recopied, delivered, logged, saved, archived... Plus, even deleting doesn't get rid of the data completely until the disk is overwritten, scrambled, or dipped in lava.

    If you *have* to conspire to completely delete emails of such mass quantities, then why isn't this all just a matter of finding the guilty party?

    If they build their systems so that no trails are left, then that in itself is evidence of an intent to conspire.
    • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jwietelmann (1220240) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:27PM (#22430246)
      If you believe Greg Palast, those emails aren't so lost after all. His claim [gregpalast.com] is that Rove and company messed up and accidentally sent a bunch of those emails to http://georgewbush.org/ [georgewbush.org] addresses instead of http://georgewbush.com/ [georgewbush.com]. If these emails are genuine, they detail, among other things, how Republican operatives used a practice called caging [wikipedia.org] to suppress probable opposition voters.

      Of course given the nature of email, it's probably not provable that the email is genuine. And it doesn't help that Palast has a bit of a muckraker reputation. From what I've seen, he does have a bit of a bias, but I've never known him to fabricate his evidence. Personally I'm inclined to believe the emails are real, but, like I said, I'm not sure you can prove that. Unless of course they also turn up in the White House archives.

      Oh, right. Nevermind.
    • by KefabiMe (730997)

      If they build their systems so that no trails are left, then that in itself is evidence of an intent to conspire.

      Don't get me wrong. Not that I don't agree with you...

      Sp no evidence is evidence? Wha???

  • Just like all the other times the White House has been told to play nice. The response is going to be something like:

    "The terrorists hate our freedome."
  • theywontanyway (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@justconnected . n et> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:26PM (#22430230)
    See title. They'll do what they do every time the courts demand that they comply: nothing.

    This administration needs a slap in the face with a nail-filled board. I don't see these courts doing that any time soon... although I'm sure that "they really mean it this time, you have to give it to us!" Unfortunately, that'd be compromising "national security". Must say I'm not sure how rigging an election qualifies as national security, but since I don't quantifiable know what's in those emails, I'll just take your word Georgie.

    Sigh. If this is the price, I'd rather watch out for myself - it's cheaper that way.

    OT: hardware? why?
  • I don't get the rest of TFA [computerworld.com]. Its all about how you shouldn't loose emails. But the example they have chosen is good reason why you should loose emails.
  • A dingo ate the emails.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:06AM (#22430466)
    Now I know the staff there can be FORCED into REMEMBERING every single one of those lost emails, it is simply a matter of a weekend at Gitmo for the ENTIRE staff and that fantastic new waterboarding sport, as the Whitehouse as stated, they are gonna do it, legal or not...
  • They use Windows Server.

    Case closed.
  • They downgraded from Notes to Outlook/Exchange at about that time. They did have a reliable and secure mail system so they had to get off that in a hurry and on to a system that provides plausible deniability just when you most need it.

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