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December 14, 2009

CREW and Obama Administration Settle Lawsuit Over Missing Bush White House Emails

White HouseWashington, D.C. - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (NSA) reached a final settlement of their long-running lawsuits challenging the failure of the Bush White House and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to take any action after confronted with evidence that millions of emails had gone missing from Bush White House servers over a two and one-half year period. The lawsuits followed CREW’s revelation in April 2008 that the White House had discovered the problem in the fall of 2005. Nevertheless, the Bush White House failed to recover or restore the missing emails and knowingly continued to use a broken system for preserving electronic records.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) will restore a total of 94 days of missing emails, which will then be sent to NARA for preservation and eventual access under either the Presidential Records Act or the Federal Records Act. The dates for restoration were chosen based on email volume and external events because there simply was not enough money to restore all the missing emails. In addition, the EOP will continue to provide CREW and the NSA with records documenting the missing email problem, the response of the Bush White House to that problem, and the options the Bush White House considered for preserving electronic records, but inexplicably rejected.

To date, the Obama White House has produced thousands of pages of documents relating to these issues, all of which CREW has posted on www.governmentdocs.org. Finally, the EOP will be providing a publicly releasable description of the system it now uses to manage and preserve electronic records, including its email archiving and backup systems. CREW and the NSA will then dismiss their lawsuits.

Documents produced so far show the Bush White House was lying when officials claimed no emails were ever missing. The record now proves incontrovertibly that Bush administration officials deliberately ignored the problem and, in fact, knowingly allowed it to worsen. Some questions remain unanswered. Why, after the Office of Administration told then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers about the problem and presented her with a plan to restore the emails, did she do nothing? Why did the White House abandon -- at the last minute -- a system it had developed to manage and preserve electronic records, despite having spent millions to create it? Did the Bush White House properly respond to requests for records from the Department of Justice and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald during the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity?

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s Executive Director, said, “We may never know exactly what happened to all the missing emails, and which Bush administration officials were involved in the coverup, but we do know the American public never got the full story.” After the Obama administration produces all the promised records, CREW will release a report, providing as much detail as possible. Sloan continued, “The Obama administration, which inherited the lawsuits and the dysfunctional White House email system, has done a terrific job straightening out the mess. Thanks to the Obama White House, a critical part of our nation’s missing history will be restored. This is yet another example of the administration living up to its promise of accountability and transparency.”

Click here to read the terms of agreement.

 

 

 

 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Stephen Santulli at 202.408.5565 or ssantulli@citizensforethics.org.

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