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CREW Lawsuit Reveals 83% of Bush-Era Emails Were Never Archived
WASHINGTON - May 17 - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (the Archive) asked U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero to restore all of the millions of missing emails from the Bush White House based on newly-obtained evidence that 83% of emails from 21 days between September 2003 and August 2005 were never archived. Rather than restoring the missing emails, the Bush White House spent over $10 million trying to prove no emails were missing.
As part of a settlement of the lawsuits CREW and the Archive brought against the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) over the millions of Bush-era emails missing from White House servers, EOP agreed to conduct a comparison of archived email and email restored from backup tapes for 21 days previously identified as having a suspiciously low volume of email. The comparison revealed that 83% of emails found on the backup tapes was not part of the archived collection of Bush emails and would be lost if not for CREW's and the Archive's lawsuits. But, as CREW and the Archive explained in their letter to the archivist, because EOP used a patently flawed process to identify low volume days, a large volume of unrestored emails on backup tapes still remains missing. The archivist now has custody and control over all the backup tapes that would be used for further restoration.
CREW and the Archive also sent a second letter to White House Counsel Bob Bauer, Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein, asking them to lead a broader effort to address the government-wide problem of managing and preserving emails. NARA recently released a report showing that 79% of federal agencies responding to a NARA survey may be improperly destroying records in violation of federal law. CREW and the Archive called on the White House to convene a high-level commission to develop a plan of action to respond to this systemic problem.
Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel, said, "The Bush administration spent millions of dollars trying to prove there were no missing emails in the first place. Now we know the truth: emails did in fact vanish from White House servers. Unless the archivist takes further action, most of the emails lost from a 2 year period critical to our nation's history will never be recovered." Ms. Weismann continued, "As troubling as the missing Bush emails are, the Obama administration has a much bigger problem on its hands. With the majority of federal records at risk of destruction, the government simply cannot sit back and do nothing while valuable records are lost to history ."
Click here to read CREW's and the Archive's letter to the archivist.
Click here to read CREW's and the Archive's letter to the White House.