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Trying To Find White House Missing E-mails 437

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-were-right-here dept.
Gov IT writes "On Wednesday a federal court ordered all employees working in the Bush White House to surrender media that might contain e-mails sent or received during a two and a half year period in hope of locating missing messages before President-elect Barack Obama takes over next week."
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Trying To Find White House Missing E-mails

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  • by KingAlanI (1270538) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:16PM (#26460625) Homepage Journal

    They are unable to find Iraqi WMDs either - maybe the emails have also long since been destroyed.

  • Good Luck! (Score:5, Funny)

    by chill (34294) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:17PM (#26460633) Journal

    For security purposes, it is a little known fact that Dick Cheney was a major proponent in getting the entire Executive Branch to adopt RCF 2549 [wikipedia.org] methods of transport. Message deletion consisted of a little "hunting accident" on the family ranch.

  • by bagboy (630125) <neo@arctiPLANCKc.net minus physicist> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:18PM (#26460635)
    going to do with a 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 inch Penis?
  • Contempt of Court (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:20PM (#26460649)

    There is no way in hell the emails disappeared without the act being intentional (and thus in violation of the law). George Bush needs to be held to account for this.

    • by jlarocco (851450) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:50PM (#26460929) Homepage

      Important data is deleted by accident all the time. In other words, "real" IT people get it wrong all the time. You're expecting government IT people to get it right? Let's just say government employees aren't typically known for their competence.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Bush and the gang, but either possibility (purposely deleted or accident) seems equally likely to me.

      • The only way this will change is if someone is held to account for it. Who better than the leader of the executive branch? Future Presidents will need to be even more aware of technology, and this would serve as a good reminder of that. Obama should ensure that he has a competent IT staff running the white house computers, and that proper backup and archival processes are put in place; Bush should have done so as well, but did not.
      • Re:Contempt of Court (Score:4, Informative)

        by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:11PM (#26461147)
        , but either possibility (purposely deleted or accident) seems equally likely to me.

        700 days' worth of email are missing. I think you'd have to work pretty hard to "accidentally lose" that. You might neglect a backup or two. To do it for two years ... well, Bush can just isue himself and his staff pardons to cover it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)

          Why would he need to? There are no penalties over the deleted files. At best, they can lecture them and maybe get some sort of contempt of court punishment if a judge gets irate enough. However, I doubt they would even go that far because if there truly is no way to recover them, then those punished for no doing so in that manner will have some good grounds for a lawsuit.

          • Re:Contempt of Court (Score:4, Informative)

            by ericspinder (146776) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:19AM (#26464111) Journal

            Why would he need to? There are no penalties over the deleted files.

            From the Presidential Records Act [archives.gov]

            Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.

            John Dean had it right when he called it 'Worse than Watergate'.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Unfortunately, the laws mandating archival are relics themselves. For a local example, here in Maine they keep lists of campaign contributions made to various local politicians. But they are only required to hold two years of records, which is basically useless for determining any historical patterns of contributions.

              The laws need to be updated to reflect changes in technology. With the price of storage these days, there's effectively no reasonable difference between archiving 2 years of data and archivi

        • by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @01:31PM (#26470173) Homepage Journal

          700 days' worth of email are missing. I think you'd have to work pretty hard to "accidentally lose" that. You might neglect a backup or two. To do it for two years ... well, Bush can just isue himself and his staff pardons to cover it.

          Indeed, you've hit upon the core point of the matter. This was either (a) an accident, or (b) a deliberate subversion of law in an attempt to avoid the public finding out what people in the executive branch (you know, our employees?) were doing. Both of these possibilities are extremely bad.

          The latter possibility should have had people on both sides of the aisle calling for an independent investigation. But even if it were "merely" an accident, where was the high-level firing of IT personnel? In my company if two years' worth of e-mails were lost, a few IT people would be out the door in a heartbeat. Who got fired from the White House IT staff as a result of what most people would consider a serious calamity?

      • by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:19PM (#26461207) Homepage

        It is?

        Maybe in your company it is, but believe it or not, there are places where that just isnt true!

        For example, for me and my domain of users, an important file may be deleted by accident by someone. But that is why we have backups where the oldest file is no more than 12 hours old.

        To try and claim that this much EMAIL went missing, when it is so trivial to accomplish that even a govt employee could do it with their eyes closed, is a bit too much slack to give.

        "Real" IT people DONT get it wrong all the time. In fact "Real" IT people dont get it wrong at all.

        I feel sorry for you if your environment has led you to believe that level of competence is normal. I wish you the best of luck in your quest to find a place to work at that shatters your surroundings of incompetence

        • by carlzum (832868) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @12:38AM (#26461921)
          I would argue it takes more effort to wipe out all traces of email and files than find a backup. I call shenanigans if the White House claims any email was "lost" and can't be recovered.
      • by witherstaff (713820) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:34AM (#26464179) Homepage
        If it was a server glitch, HD crash, incompetent admins, normal IT problem then sure I could easily understand. Giving 88 white house people separate email accounts, non .gov domain names, and going through the RNC computers instead of the normal white house computers is just too fishy. Read the summary of findings [wikipedia.org] found by oversight committees and you won't help but see it wasn't an IT fault it was a deliberate skirting of the laws. This is as bad as Cheney making the claim that the office of the VP isn't part of the executive branch [washingtonpost.com] so he doesn't need to give records to the national archives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by djupedal (584558)

      > George Bush needs to be held to account for this.

      Yes, sure, but... What makes you think anyone in the Bush administration is going to be held any more accountable than Bernie Madoff, who is walking around when he should be in jail?

      • by Nimey (114278) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:42PM (#26461435) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, how the fuck does that Madoff thing work? Is he getting a pass because of the sheer enormity of what he did?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        Yes, sure, but... What makes you think anyone in the Bush administration is going to be held any more accountable than Bernie Madoff, who is walking around when he should be in jail?

        In the short term, the worst that will happen to Madoff is he ends up in jail.
        In the long term, he will go down in the history books as a swindler and a liar.
        I've already seen the expression "he Madoff with our money" used in print.
        That will be his legacy and for individuals like him, it is a far worse punishment.

        To bring this back on topic, without an accurate historical record, right wing think tanks will do (have been doing) their best to whitewash Bush & Cheney's actions and there will be a huge hol

        • by djupedal (584558)

          > ...will be his legacy and for individuals like him, it is a far worse punishment.

          Madoff is a sociopath. His basic mental profile is what allowed him to do what he did - his comfort comes from within, not from labels society hangs around his neck.

          > They've successfully run out the clock.

          On certain types of refutation...perhaps.

          Nixon had his Deepthroat - we can only trust that G.W.'s is just around the corner.

      • by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @12:41AM (#26461953)

        Madoff hasn't been found guilty yet. Why should a "presumed innocent" person be in jail, whether he is Madoff, or you, or me?

    • Re:Contempt of Court (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lord Kano (13027) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @12:20AM (#26461789) Homepage Journal

      Of course, you convienently forget the emails that disappeared on the Clinton/Gore watch...

      LK

  • And then what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

    Prosecute an outgoing President?

    I don't like Bush as a President at all. But the job of the President is to make tough decisions and along the way he will make lots of enemies. However, just because a person is my enemy, it does not mean that he made those difficult decisions with anything but his best intentions and the country's best interests at heart. So it would be petty and irresponsible for us "enemies" of the current President to pursue this type of vindictive hounding because 4 years from now those

    • Re:And then what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by chill (34294) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:25PM (#26460697) Journal

      Don't you mean "respect the law"?

      I have no idea if they could even remotely find evidence that President Bush was directly responsible for the intentional destruction of evidence, but I seriously doubt it. But the law trumps the office. That is one reason we have a PRESIDENT, not KING.

      • Re:And then what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:32PM (#26460749) Homepage Journal

        "When the President does it, that mean's it's not illegal" - Richard M. Nixon

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

        That's the thing, over the decades, Congress has given the Executive branch so much power, either through legislation or the lack of actually standing up for themselves to assert their own authority that President of the United States is creeping on becoming a Caesar-like position. For example, signing statements shouldn't have been enshrined in precedence, and we had a president that decided to invalidate or water down any law or provision that he doesn't like but can't veto.

        • Yeah, but the people only complain when it is used against policies they don't like, and never when it is a policy they support.

          You see, when the "left" does it, it has to be "okay" because it is in the best interest of their "people" but if the "right" does the exact same thing ... then it is PURE EVIL!!!!

          Oh, and before the lefties go nuts, the RIGHT has the exact same problem. Both sides are hypocrites, and without priniciples; willing to set aside stated values when it serves their goals.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Lord Kano (13027)

        But the law trumps the office.

        Do you mind if I ask what was your position when the previous President was on trial for Perjury, Subornation of Perjury and Obstruction of Justice?

        LK

    • So you're saying he should get away with violating the law and failing to uphold his oath of office, since your guy might do the same thing?

      Criminals should answer for their crimes, even if they are the president.
    • Re:And then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:34PM (#26460763) Journal

      So it would be petty and irresponsible for us "enemies" of the current President to pursue this type of vindictive hounding because 4 years from now those same tactics will be used against a President I support.

      A) You seem to be lumping partisans who hate Bush alongside citizens who believe that public officials should follow the law.
      B) If Obama pulls the same bullshit I sure as hell hope that he gets endlessly hounded for it.

      Respect the office.

      The office means jack shit if the President doesn't respect the law and the constitution.

    • Re:And then what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ucblockhead (63650) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:35PM (#26460789) Homepage Journal

      As someone who voted for Obama, I sure hope to hell if he does a tenth of the illegal crap Bush seems to have, he is vindictively hounded out of office a lot sooner than 4 years from now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bledri (1283728)

      Prosecute an outgoing President?

      If Bush didn't like the conditions of employment, he should not have taken the job. Same goes for Obama.

      because 4 years from now those same tactics will be used against a President I support.

      I supported Obama. If his administration fails archive communications as required by law, then I will support a lawsuit to try to correct the, um, oversight.

      I suspect that the information is "lost." And that really sucks. Not from a standpoint of trying to prosecute anybody, but from the standpoint of developing and growing as a nation. The administration is suppose to support the archives, not hide

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Comatose51 (687974)

      NPR had a segment talking about the oath of office today.

      "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

      See that sentence? The President is not above the law since he swears to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." The Constitution trumps the President. The NPR segment even mentions how the words "my Judgment

  • Cut GW some slack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:25PM (#26460687)
    So they trumped up bogus evidence to started a bogus war that killed many thousand people and put a severe economic drain on the country.

    Is that really so bad?

    It's not like he got a blowjob or anything!

  • by gorehog (534288) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:34PM (#26460765)

    ...it's sailing away!

    Really people this is over.

    I'm a serious lefty. I hate war criminals because I am Jewish. I marched in Manhattan against the war in Iraq the February before it started. It happened. The crimes have been committed. We blindly followed zealots and morons into domestic and foreign policies that have ruined our nation morally and economically.

    My question is, what new things do you expect to learn? Is there any reason to read these emails? We know what they did and who is responsible. Maybe we don't have every gory detail. I doubt we need them. We could already try the major players.

    But what punishment would be appropriate? The point of investigating these actions would have been to stop them and we did not do enough, as the American Citizenry, to stop them. WE EVEN RE-ELECTED the criminals.

    We won't hang the offenders as is appropriate (Nuremberg anyone?), we won't hand them over to the victim nations. We didn't stop the crimes and as members of a democracy that makes us complicit.

    Imagine a parent who gives their kid a case of beer and the keys to the car. The kid gets drunk and drives the car through the neighbor's house. What would the neighbor think if all the parents did was ground the kid for a few weeks?

    • by Mashhaster (1396287) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:46PM (#26460885)
      It's important for us to know every gory detail, if only for historical posterity; not that we're likely to be able to recover any of these emails at this point. After all, they likely contained incriminating evidence, and were destroyed for that reason. However, I still feel it's important for historical accuracy, and as a warning to all future presidents, that every last piece of dirty laundry of this administration be made public, and finally when that's all said and done, and the office of the presidency is muddy, bloody and dishonored, then we prosecute the criminals for their willful disregard of the rule of law, to the full extent of the law. If we do not take these steps, we are inviting future chief executives to do exactly the same thing as BushCo did. Not to mention the million innocent Iraqi souls who would still be alive if not for the pointless war we've waged over there; they deserve justice, as much as BushCo deserves to be brought to it.
      • by gorehog (534288)

        Yeah, but showing dirty laundry NEVER stops the next guy from getting dirty. It didn't work after Nixon and we saw all sorts of his crap (Watergate and, more importantly the Pentagon Papers.)

        This really seems like closing the barn door and yelling angrily at the horse as it runs away. Unless we are going to make a TRUE example out of the heads of state who betrayed us (and I definitely mean bloody, public executions...or handing them over to nations who deserve the put them on trial) this just becomes...his

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Mashhaster (1396287)

          Saying that the truth won't necessarily prevent the past from repeating itself is a weak argument against fighting for the truth in the first place, in my opinion.

          If nothing else, full disclosure of the activities of this administration would force the American public to see the truth of the past eight years, and would likely result in at least some high profile convictions of the outgoing administration.

          Just because we can't see to it that they get as good as they gave, doesn't mean we should let them ride

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by 2Bits (167227)

        And I sure hope that someone, Noam Chomsky or someone else, will write a book that explains to the public what the two Bushes have done during all these years, as eloquently as in The Culture of Terrorism [amazon.com].

        Now, if you are going to try Bush and company, then I'd say that almost every single American president of the 20th century must be dragged into court as well, except the newly elected Obama (but we'll see).

        Disclosure: I was the survivor of a country that was devastated as a result of the terrorist foreig

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tjstork (137384)

      I hate war criminals because I am Jewish

      Oh, what the heck does that mean? I mean, come on dude. Just because you are a jew doesn't entitle you to some special prize.

      My question is, what new things do you expect to learn? Is there any reason to read these emails? We know what they did and who is responsible. Maybe we don't have every gory detail. I doubt we need them. We could already try the major players.

      The real problem is, that, even if the left wing unearthed every email that it could unearth, and tri

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Now, it doesn't matter whether Bush oversold the war or not. In fact, he probably lied. All Presidents lie. You can't goad people honestly into war or tell the truth as to why you have them. War is as much an act of statecraft and politic on the national stage as any other and honesty in war making is arguably detrimental to national security.

        The crime isn't that he lied. The crime was that he lied when he took the oath of office to uphold the constitution. I know a lot of people don't care about civil liberties and regard the constitution as just a piece of paper that sometimes gets in the way of their goals. I don't. Its sacred to me as much as anything could be; I know that is silly, but I don't care.

        Also, he was a dumb ass that really hurt the US, but there is no specific law against that.

        • by Stile 65 (722451)

          The crime isn't that he lied. The crime was that he lied when he took the oath of office to uphold the constitution. I know a lot of people don't care about civil liberties and regard the constitution as just a piece of paper that sometimes gets in the way of their goals. I don't. Its sacred to me as much as anything could be; I know that is silly, but I don't care.

          I don't understand. Why is that silly?

          • I'm an atheist. That makes it silly that I hold anything sacred.

            And it is just a piece of paper with ideas that I know really *can't* be fully realized in my lifetime, ideas that I want to become true whether or not its likely, practical or even possible.

            I won't let myself give up hope.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by tjstork (137384)

              :I'm an atheist

              Atheism is impossible because the world is irrational. Therefor, you are doomed to invent something in your mind that acts a religion, even if you do not call that, and has a god at the head of it, or gods. In your case, your god is your depersonalized ideal of a constitution that is very personal and very polarizing. See, you can act like a religious nut without even having a conventional god.

        • The crime isn't that he lied. The crime was that he lied when he took the oath of office to uphold the constitution. I know a lot of people don't care about civil liberties and regard the constitution as just a piece of paper that sometimes gets in the way of their goals. I don't. Its sacred to me as much as anything could be; I know that is silly, but I don't care.

          Compared to Woodrow Wilson, Bush is a piker when it comes to violating the constitution and getting involved in wars with unbelievably bad repercussions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gorehog (534288)

        Not asking for a prize. Just explaining my perspective. I was raised to be seriously offended by war crimes and genocide.

        As for political persecution look at the Clinton impeachment. You guys did it first.

        You are also correct in that there will never be enough support for criminal proceedings against Bush, and even if there were there would never be enough support for an appropriate punishment.

        Congress gave him approval, but based on false information that he provided. That's a crime right there.

        As for "Yea

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tjstork (137384)

          You final paragraph is weak rhetoric. Congress was given lies and failed to call Bush on it. but guess what? It was a Republican controlled Congress and Bush was head of the party, so again, the responsibility lies at his feet.

          Uh, Democrats controlled the Senate at the time the war resolution was voted on. So, basically, what you are saying is that the Democratic Party abdicated its responsibility to assess the claim of war on its merits.

          And, what lies, exactly, was the Congress given? Seriously, I would

    • the reason why this needs to be investigated is for Justice. Justice is a simple promise that when someone breaks the law, and attempt will be made to punish them according to the rules laid down by society.

      Because he is the president, it is all that much more important that a crime that he might have comitted be investigated and if needed, prosecuted. America was founded on the ideal that all men are equal, that there are no kings that are above the law, and the rules will be applied fairly.

      One might
      • by gorehog (534288)

        Ah, justice.

        Good point.

        To quote Aristotle "What is just?"

        What punishment is appropriate for these crimes?

        Imprisonment in a minimum security prison? Exile? Execution?

        I simply cannot imagine a just punishment. I think a just punishment would be one that serves the purpose of acting as a deterrent to future leaders and a reminder to future citizens of what to watch for. The justice must come in the eye of history comparing this administration to those of Nixon, Hoover, and LBJ.

        My point is that in the short ter

    • Really people this is over.

      Not really. The only ship that is sailing is the executive pardon ship; there isn't a chance in hell Obama will pardon anyone from the Bush administration for the torture stuff, and when you're out of office, it makes it much harder for you to retaliate (or get anyone in the current administration to retaliate) for going after you criminally.

      There was a long podcast on Fresh Air recently (I think this is the one [npr.org]) about how nobody in the Bush administration is traveling outsi

    • by Mex (191941)

      We blindly followed zealots and morons into domestic and foreign policies that have ruined our nation morally and economically.

      For 8 years! Good job there ; )

      Really, I lost a little respect for the USA when Bush was RE-elected, and I think a large part of the world did too...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because Obama will be sure to properly archive all of his emails...and SMS messages...

  • It's not the judge's prerogative to rule over the executive branch. The Constitution specifically grants Congress the authority to judge the President via impeachment, not the courts.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The people have the right to sue the executive branch. The venue for such suit is naturally the courts. In that case, it is indeed the prerogative of a judge to resolve the suit according to law.

      Impeachment is a different beast entirely, which could result in actual punishment instead of just forcing them to hand over their documents.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KiltedKnight (171132) *
      Yet the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is in charge of the Senate as it hears the Impeachment Trial, not the Vice President. Remember that in all other cases, the Vice President is, constitutionally, the President of the Senate and only casts a vote there in the event of a tie.
  • Right... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zwekiel (1445761) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:05PM (#26461081)
    This administration has been known for their easy relations and quick co-operation with the Department of Justice. I'm sure this request will be just as promptly answered, and always with courtesy!

    All I have to say is good luck with that...
  • Fight or Flight (Score:4, Informative)

    by not_hylas( ) (703994) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:23PM (#26461257) Homepage Journal

    Review IT architecture of (the late) Mike Connell for the GOP:
    Read the links, Videos with Spoonamore, another GOP IT Guru.

    http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08%2F12%2F23%2F2128209 [slashdot.org]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJi7ViN35O8 [youtube.com]

    http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Foul_play_not_suspected_in_GOP_0113.html [rawstory.com]

    http://www.velvetrevolution.us/prosecute_rove/ [velvetrevolution.us]

    You telling me Systems people don't do backups?
    Thought not.

  • Honest question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zuke8675309 (470025)

    Do they have to retain all spam messages too? If not, who determines what is spam and what isn't?

  • What do you want....a body? He confessed - that's how this thing came to light...case closed.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @03:08AM (#26462827) Homepage Journal
    "I'm sorry, your honor. We are completely incompetent." Who's NOT going to believe that after the last 8 years?
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:04AM (#26463679)

    ...he'll find those missing emails in 24 hours.

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