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Associated Press

White House May Have Lost 7 Months of E-mail Since 2003

Pete Yost

WASHINGTON - The White House is missing as many as 225 days of e-mail dating back
to 2003, and there is little likelihood that a recovery effort will be
completed by the time President Bush leaves office, according to an
internal White House draft document obtained by the Associated Press.

The nine-page outline of the White House's e-mail problems invites
companies to bid on a project to recover the missing electronic

The work would be carried out through April 19,
2009, according to the Office of Administration request for
contractors' proposals dated June 20. The new president will be
inaugurated three months before that completion date.

week, the White House declined to comment on the document. On
Wednesday, the White House refused to discuss internal contracting
procedures but said the information was "outdated and seriously
inaccurate." It would not elaborate. Nor would it say whether anyone
had been hired.

"With an eye on the clock, the White House
continues to drag its feet and do everything possible to postpone
public access to the records of this presidency," said Anne L.
Weismann, chief counsel of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington, a private watchdog group.

The draft document outlines a process in which
private contractors would attempt to retrieve lost e-mail from 35,000
disaster recovery backup tapes dating to October 2003, a period
covering such events as growing violence in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison
scandal and the criminal inquiry into the disclosure that Valerie
Plame, wife of an administration critic, worked for the CIA.

The recovery project would not use backup tapes going back to March
2003, according to the draft document, even though an earlier White
House assessment suggested that e-mail was missing from that period as

Industry experts point out that relying on the backup
system to ensure accurate retention, preservation and retrieval of all
e-mail is problematic because it does not take into account deleted

"A backup system isn't designed to be a 100% complete
inventory of all e-mails," said William P. Lyons, chairman and chief
executive of AXS-One, a provider of records compliance management
solutions. "It's designed to make a copy of data at a specific point in

The White House draft document says the number of days
of missing e-mail ranges from 25 to 225, a range that industry experts
say would make it difficult to bid on a recovery project.

"Generally, when the scope of the work is expected to fluctuate by a
factor of nearly 10, I can only take you so seriously," said Steven L.
Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at
George Washington University.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill in
February, the White House told Congress it was trying to determine how
many e-mail messages were missing.


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