The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Naomi Seligman 202.408.5565

CREW Wins Right to Sue White House in Missing Email Case


Today, D.C. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy upheld lawsuits brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive challenging the White House's failure to properly store and recover millions of emails. In 2002, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) stopped using the Automated Records Management System (ARMS) that had been in place since 1994, which automatically backed up all emails, but failed to install any other backup program. As a result, the Office of Administration (OA) determined that millions of emails from between March 2003 and October 2005 have disappeared. Although OA developed a plan to recover the missing emails, it was never implemented and no new electronic records management system was ever put into place. CREW sued EOP, OA and the Archivist alleging that they had violated the Federal Records Act by failing to take corrective action.

In refusing to dismiss the case, Judge Kennedy resoundingly rejected the White House's arguments. The Court held that CREW has the right to sue to force the Archivist, EOP and OA to initiate action through the attorney general to restore the deleted emails before they become irrecoverable, that the Court has the authority to review the adequacy of the White House's recordkeeping practices, and that EOP, the Archivist and OA all have a duty to prevent the destruction of federal records.

CREW's executive director Melanie Sloan said, "The Court has rejected the administration's argument and upheld CREW's right to sue the White House for failing to comply with the Federal Records Act. The White House, which values secrecy above nearly all else, finally will be held accountable for the millions of missing emails. This is a huge victory for government transparency and the American people."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.