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Judge Demands Information About Missing White House Emails 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-come-clean dept.
Lucas123 writes "A District Court judge has ordered the Executive Office of the President to tell the court by May 5 whether any e-mail server backup tapes were kept for a period from March to October 2003 to cover controversial issues such as reasons for starting the war in Iraq, the release of a former CIA operative's name and the US Department of Justice's actions. The White House has been working for months trying to fend off a lawsuit filed last May in federal court in Washington by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. The judge cited what he called an apparent contradiction by White House CIO Theresa Payton as to whether backup tapes had been preserved. He also recommended that White House employees be ordered to turn over any flash drives or other portable media that may contain e-mails. The White House missing email scandal has been developing for some time now."
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Judge Demands Information About Missing White House Emails

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:31AM (#23213598)
    Why not just ask AT&T, the NSA, and all the telecoms that got their hands (or other appendages) caught in the cookie jar (data-pipe). They probably have some copies running around somewhere 8-/

  • Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Narpak (961733) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:38AM (#23213642)
    The longer they manage to keep the law at bay the greater chance that whatever "evidence" remains is distorted, manipulated or just outright deleted.
  • by chabotc (22496) <chabotc AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:44AM (#23213674) Homepage
    I find it somewhat amusing that in this day and age where data retention acts in various countries are often the topic of the next, the US government can't even keep it's own emails :-)
  • by Fuzzums (250400) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:49AM (#23213696) Homepage
    At least it's good to know a government is willing to go a long way to keep you from knowing if they fucked up.
  • For the Future... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by txoof (553270) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:51AM (#23213698) Homepage
    It's fairly obvious that the tapes have been misplaced (misplaced into the shredder next to the giant electro-magnet and then shot into the sun). There's really no hope of seeing them again. If a copy turns up, it will only be because of a sudden outbreak of morality on some stooge's part, not because a court orders it.

    That being said, what can we do to ensure this doesn't happen again? One obvious method would be to have each branch of government actually run the backup for another branch. For example, the Judicial would backup the Legislature, the legislature would backup the Executive, and the Executive the Judicial.

    I know this has flaws; how do we keep everybody from peeking into the backups, for example. I'm sure the Legislative branch wouldn't want the Executive branch to be flipping through its emails, and vice-vice-versa for the other branches.

    In any backup scenario, those that could be incriminated by the backups, should NEVER be allowed to manage them. An independent organization should be tasked with managing the IT behind the scenes, it should not be left in the hands of the administration. Someone like the library of congress, the secret service or some agency that is not directly under each branch's control would be vastly superior.

    Let's figure out which scape-goat will be ritually sacrificed for this screw up, then move on to a real solution that makes this sort of thing a whole lot more difficult in the future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:54AM (#23213720)
    Maybe I'm naieve, but I suspect they could if they wanted to ;)
  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:55AM (#23213726)
    It's not the entire U.S. government that's the problem. Usually the government keeps pretty good records. The problem is this administration believes itself above law and order. It also has infected large portions of other parts of the government with it's political appointees whose only quality is loyalty the administration. Whatever was on those e-mails was likely to be more damning the "hand slap" they're getting now for erasing, er "losing" the e-mails. I suppose it could have been an innocent mix-up, but if the administration is so incompetent that they can't make back-ups of data they're required to, I suppose it's no suprise they've failed miserably in just about every other enterprise they've attempted in the last seven years (except of course, smearing their opponents, they're rather good at that).
  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:14AM (#23213796)
    If I had mod points, I would mod you up.

    The Bush administration's deliberate use of the RNC e-mail system, and the amazing coincidence that the White House allowed the e-mail records to get overwritten (or at least claims they have).

    It's a blatant coverup not unlike Nixon's 18 minute gap in a tape recorded conversation between him and H.R. Haldeman.

    The American people need to demand Bush surrender all evidence or that he and his administration be held in contempt of court.
  • by Narpak (961733) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:18AM (#23213810)
    What is needed is a Government for the People By the People; where the people have good solid oversight over all the actions taken, laws enacted, appointments made; and the background for these decisions. If the Governing body is not transparent then it can not be trusted to be just or democratic. All decisions made behind closed doors are suspect, though in some cases it is justified for the public good; however "for the public good" is a concept that can all to easily be abused by those hungering for power and wealth.
  • by Mix+Master+Nixon (1018716) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:37AM (#23213914)
    Nobody "credible" will dig, and those who demand that digging be done will merely be ridiculed as crazy. Which I guess is true; you'd have to be crazy to think that the truth (whatever it might be) will come out on this, but you'd have to be stupid to think that on this one particular issue this administration is at all trustworthy when they've been caught brazenly lying about pretty much everything else they've ever done since they took power - and it was taken, not given. This is no different. Just because I don't know and can't prove what happened doesn't mean that I have to accept as gospel the words of the biggest bullshit artists of them all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:44AM (#23213952)
    Why can the Bush administration do illegal and unconstitutional things but be so high and mighty about their need to monitor every American citizen to make sure they don't do illegal things?

    How can the Bush administration invade countries and kill innocent civilians (shock and awe) and not see it as terrorism?

    What is the difference between a bunch of idiots crashing planes into buildings and another bunch of idiots sending bombers, fighters, tanks, and troops into a country to demolish their buildings and kill their people?

    The sad reality is that companies like Blackwater have gone into Iraq and turn the cities into a shooting gallery. The troops, under the stress of IEDs, suicide bombers, etc, respond by also going on killing sprees.

    What is the difference and what gives the Bush administration the right to kill what has been estimated as between 80,000 to 90,000 innocent Iraqis? http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ [iraqbodycount.org]

    Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Rice, et. al., have now killed over 4000 Americans and over 80,000 Iraqis in the name of fighting terror after 3000 Americans were killed on 9/11.

    Does that make sense? I don't think so. All they have done is given terrorists more reasons to attack.
  • by AlHunt (982887) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:54AM (#23214028) Homepage Journal
    Here it is:

    a) We short circuited the whitehouse email by using GOP addresses
    b) There was stuff we didn't want anyone to know in there
    c) We deleted it all and trashed the server storage just in case

    Does that answer your question?

  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:57AM (#23214058)
    In my mind, the amusing thing is that this has happened before... under the Clinton administration. Remember Travelgate? [bbc.co.uk] Remember the lost emails [nytimes.com] that the White House couldn't find? You would think someone would learn. Or should I believe that maybe Democrats and Republicans have something to gain from poor email archives?
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @11:04AM (#23214106)
    WRONG.

    Tell me what the official policy is on dara recovery? If the servers with email on them were to explode, is the stance that "those emails are lost"? Or is there a backup strategy in which tapes with data are kept? If these tapes are kept, and an email is subsequently deleted, it could be recovered from these tapes. The email undelete policy is irrelevant to the questions being asked here. The court isn't saying "as long as it's within your policy to undelete, please undelete the messages we want. They are saying "we know you back up your servers, produce those backups now." To which the response is "against our policy, those tapes were destroyed. We don't know when, by whom or how, but we can't produce that which we, by policy and law, are required to have." Do you understand the issue now? Your limited experience with one company's undelete policy is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    No company in their right mind will retain emails unless for those reasons stated.

    Most companies in their right mind keep email backups for 7 years as documentation in case of specific audit types that can go back 7 years. To delete them if they stored documents or contained specific information is illegal, and most people that play in the corporate IT world know this.
  • by initialE (758110) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @11:13AM (#23214190)
    You'd have to go quite far to convince someone to kill himself and a load of innocent passengers in order to protect your own damning evidence though. How on earth would anyone pull it off?
  • by bartwol (117819) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @11:15AM (#23214200)
    A challenge for many record retention policies, especially with email, is to prevent the proliferation of copies and avoid "unplanned retention." Many (most) of the emails being sought in this case were long iterative threads with large cc lists. When you factor for network distribution mechanisms and the variety of personal practices (use of various POP clients, personal folder management, people who still insist on printing stuff, desktop archive and cache settings, etc.), it is quite humorous and implausible to believe that the emails are gone. In fact, you can't practically make them go away.

    You can, however, wipe the server and make the "Backup Tape" go away, and then try to keep people focused on that.

    No, the rabbit really isn't in the magician's hat, and no, the rabbit didn't really disappear.
  • Re:Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @11:27AM (#23214280) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget though -- it's the coverup that is often the key. It's easy to destroy evidence, it's harder to destroy evidence of destroying evidence, then destroy evidence of destroying evidence of destroying evidence, and so ad infinitum.

    So first, you prove they're crooks. Then it's much easier to show the extent of their criminality, although this might involve. That's how the Valerie Plame case should have gone, but Scooter willingly took the fall, and Congress wasn't willing to take the next step and impeach Libby, probably anticipating a party line deadlock in the Senate.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @11:58AM (#23214502) Homepage
    That is either a serious error in judgement, or sheer political bullshit. This partisan b$ has to stop, regardless of which party, which gender or whihc race, corrupt politician should be pursued, prosecuted and incarcerated.

    The sickening party lie, that somehow it is acceptable today because someone from another political party did it a decade ago but not quite so bad is just a disingenuous lie.

    All those absolutely corrupt idiots who fail to demonise any corrupt official often have their snout right in the trough with them.

    Quailty government is all about the continual audit and review of every action of government and where applicable, the public disclosure of those actions so that htye can be publicly debated and based upon those debates, far more sensible choice about who you should elect.

    It is the standard lie of the politically corrupt to claim all politicians are corrupt whilst they and the slimy cronies cook elections to ensure the worst and most criminally politicians of the lot get elected. So why mod idiots who say do nothing, idiots who look at failures a decade ago while ignoring what is going on today, or disingenuous idiots who would allow their own country to fail as long as they profit.

  • by toddestan (632714) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @12:07PM (#23214584)
    Well said John :) If I had the points I'd deffinitely mod you up. All these idiots who are currently demonizing the Bush admin seem to have been born in 2001. Either that, or their memory is so faulty that they've forgotten all the scandals of past administrations.

    Either that, or they don't buy the "But they did it too!" argument you typically hear from children on the playground.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @12:22PM (#23214748)
    "All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again." - BSG

    What I don't get is that all these people are just sitting there. Afghanistan was invaded, but they didn't bother to actually track down Bin Laden. Iraq was invaded based on absolutely no evidence and the entire region has been unstable ever since, but no one cares. The constitution has been bypassed and civil rights have been infringed, all in the name of the socalled "War on Terror", prompting other nations to follow this wonderful example. Evidence of this administration's mistakes are deliberately being hidden. But talk about impeachment is out of order, for some reason. Why? I don't get it. The US was formed just because the citizens of a British colony didn't feel it was right to pay taxes, but not be represented in London. Where is the kind of moral outrage that you would expect from this?
  • by BirdDoggy (886894) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @12:25PM (#23214788)
    People who criticize the Bush admin are not necessarily idiots. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so and these data retention "problems" are definitely one of them. And no, no one has forgotten past administrations' scandals, it's just that past administrations' scandals do not legitimize the actions and practices of this administration.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @12:33PM (#23214838)
    Come on, that's just starting to stink of loopy conspiracy.

    If there really was a conspiracy to destroy a whole bunch of documents, you're seriously telling me the simplest, easiest plan they could come up with was "Let's find and finance a bunch of nutjobs to fly planes into buildings - and make sure that two of those buildings are the towers of the WTC"?
  • by dpilot (134227) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @01:21PM (#23215254) Homepage Journal
    That's all because the Republicans are the RIGHT wing, and therefore whatever they do is RIGHT. Whatever Bush does is RIGHT, because he's President and he's a Republican. By the same token, whatever Clinton did, and whatever the next Democratic President does, will be an abuse of power, because he/she's a Democrat, and that WRONG reverses the President's RIGHT, making it even worse.

    And if you can't follow and buy into this clear chain of logic, you must be a liberal treasonous traitor.

    What's really scary is that most times it's not put this simply or sarcastically, but apparently nearly half the nation has bought into this drivel.

    But then early this year, McCain kissed the right a$$, and has been anointed by the same kingmakers that anointed Bush. The press is reporting on the angst and horseracing aspects of Clinton vs Obama, and is writing them off in November, "because irreparable damage has been done during the extended primary season," snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Hello President McCain... Bomb Iran, bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.
  • by witherstaff (713820) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @02:39PM (#23215934) Homepage

    It's getting to the point that it is the entire US government that's the problem. Where are the congressional hearings about this, demanding answers as to why laws are not being followed? Where are motions to at the very least censure the Bush admin for failing to follow the Presidential Records act? As far as I know, only Kucinich has publicaly mentioned the impeachment process (Only to table the idea a few months ago)

    Our 3 sections of government are supposed to watchdog each other. When one of them messes up royally, the others should at least make some noise about it.

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @03:00PM (#23216094)
    this administration believes itself above law Lay off the kool-aid, dude. At least this administration hasn't had the FBI files of the opposing party "somehow" appear in the White House.

    Are you seriously comparing the stupid Clinton "Filegate" scandal to the Bush Administration's abuses of the justice system, which includes selective prosecution and actual imprisonment of people based on their political alignments? Even as Bush listens to your phone calls, monitors your financial activity, and records every web page you visit, with your open acquiescence?

    I personally dislike the Clintons but the Whitewater Independent Counsel found in 2000 that there was no evidence of criminal activity or impropriety in "Filegate", nor was there evidence that anyone in the White House had actually requested any of the files. There was no hit on Vince Foster either.

    Huh? It's the government! Do you really expect gov't to be efficient or do things correctly?

    I guess we should just shut the government down if you idiots are too ideologically handicapped to run it.
  • by Yfrwlf (998822) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:01PM (#23218118)
    Bush et. al. didn't kill 4000 Americans, they sent their all-volunteer military into harm's way. The opposition killed 4000 American soldiers. Compared to most other armed conflicts, American casualties have been very light.

    If you're a leader of a nation, you don't feel like you should be held responsible for the commands you issue? What is being a leader then, why even have one?

    Any amount of lives lost is a lot if the reasons for a conflict aren't valid. The only conflict was between the US and the group that attacked it, and attacking entire nations for no reason without the UN's agreement and concent isn't the way to gain favor in the eyes of those who wish you gone.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:47PM (#23218474) Journal
    "The terrorists already hated the USA prior to the conflict in Iraq & Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden's main complaint was that Americans were in Saudi Arabia and contaminating the land by their presence"

    OBL did want the US out of Saudi Arabia but he stated in a letter to the US that 911 was revenge for "US bombs raining on Lebanon" in the 80's. OBL had no connection at all to Iraq nor has it been shown that Iraq sponsered terrorists, however it is well known the CIA sponsered OBL and many other tinpot warlords to push the soviets out of Afghanistan.

    Also if you want to be pedantic about the definition of words let's not be one sided, Iraqis attacking US troops are not terrorists they are a resistance force (ie: irregulars who's aim is to get the occupation to leave).

    "On the other hand, there haven't been any terrorist attacks in the USA since then. Of course, correlation & causation are different things..."

    Yes they are, here in Oz we haven't had a single Polar Bear attack since we sent troops to Iraq to stop Saudi born terrorists from attacking the US out of Afghanistan. OTOH we now have something I never thought I would see in Australia, a political prisoner [wikipedia.org] who's 'crime' was to break a retrospective law that was written after he had already spent five years in Gitmo.
  • by RingDev (879105) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:32PM (#23225992) Homepage Journal
    They've done what, 37 debates already?

    And how did that last debate turn out?

    45+ minutes of retarded 'gotcha' questions. He isn't "afraid" to debate Clinton, he just has nothing to gain by it. Another debate would just rehash the same right wing talking points about his former Pastor and some guy he met when he was 8 years old.

    Hillary on the other hand has everything to gain. She can go on the offensive and be as nasty as she wants. Sure, some of it will bounce, but as we've seen, negative adds will stick, if she (and the republican party) continues to repeat them long enough. But since Obama is taking the "high" road (err, only needing muck boots instead of waders to walk down), if he gets nasty and offensive, he loses the good guy appeal.

    In any case, for the vast majority of Americans, a vote for Hilary (NAFTA) or McCain (Bush tax cuts) is a vote against their financial best interests.

    The difference between Obama's "uhms" and Bushes is simple. Obama is THINKING of what he is about to say while Bush is trying to REMEMBER what he was told to say. Really, taking a second to collect your thoughts while talking where any 5 word phrase taken completely out of context can sink the future of your career seems like a pretty acceptable thing to do IMO.

    And Obama's elect-ability issues aren't that big. The only reason that it looks so bad at the moment is because he has both the Republican party AND the Clintons firing against him. And he isn't getting all that negative on Hillary. The Republicans have 20 years of dirt on her, and they have the money to put it on every open advertising space that can from June to November. I am far far more worried about Hillary's elect-ability than I am Obama's.

    -Rick

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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