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01 May 2008, 09:56

Bush administration's email snafu explained?

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In the long-running case of CREW v. Executive Office of the President, et al., relating to the alleged loss of over 10 million emails by the Bush administration since 2002, the White House recently responded to a contempt motion for failing to back up data drives containing email by stating that the drives had been destroyed. A Judge has now ruled that the White House must advise the court whether back-up tapes have been preserved.

According to a Congressional report released in February this year "The White House has not had a reliable system for preserving White House emails since 2002, when the White House made the decision to stop using the Automatic Records Management System (ARMS) used by the Clinton White House." Apparently this decision was driven by an upgrade from Lotus Notes to MS Exchange with which the ARMS was incompatible. A manual procedure was implemented instead: "a White House staffer or contractor would collect from a 'journal' email folder in the Microsoft Exchange system copies of emails sent and received by White House employees" and save them as .pst files. As a result it is alleged that more than 10 million official White House emails have been illegally deleted. CREW assert that the White House is in breach of both the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act, and has applied to the court for an apparently much needed "Writ of Mandamus Compelling Defendant Archivist to Set Forth Guidelines For an Adequate System to Preserve Federal Records".


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