Washington, D.C. – Just how far did the Bush White House go to hide its actions from the American people? A new report released today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), “The Untold Story of the Bush White House Emails,” attempts to answer the question by providing a wealth of details regarding the Bush White House’s failure to prevent millions of emails from vanishing forever. In 2007, CREW and the National Security Archive sued the Bush White House for violating federal records laws. To settle the case, the Obama White House released thousands of previously withheld documents. These records reveal that top White House officials knew about the ongoing problems with the email archiving system, but repeatedly refused to take corrective action.
“A democratic system of government requires transparency,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW’s Executive Director. “But the Bush administration prided itself on keeping secrets from the American people, ignoring federal records laws requiring White House emails be preserved for future generations.” Sloan continued, “Emails that might shed light on our nation’s recent history – including records created in the lead up to the U.S. war in Iraq – have been wiped away.”
CREW’s report is based on a review of tens of thousands of pages of Bush-era documents provided to CREW and the National Security Archive as part of their multi-year lawsuit over the missing emails.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Missing emails included emails from the Office of the Vice President for a critical period in the fall of 2003 that were sought by the Department of Justice as part of its investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity. Files that should have contained these emails also were missing from backup tapes for that period and in its efforts to restore those emails from individual users’ mailboxes, the Bush White House excluded the mailbox of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby from those being restored.
- Years before its discovery in October 2005 that millions of emails were missing from White House servers, the Bush White House received multiple warnings from multiple sources, including the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), that emails were at risk of destruction.
- After spending millions of dollars and years of effort creating an effective electronic record keeping system called the Electronic Communications Records Management System (ECRMS), the Bush White House abandoned ECRMS on the eve of its deployment offering explanations that NARA, among others, did not find reasonable.
- In the end, the White House spent between $10 and $15 million to restore emails from just 48 components days.
“Sadly, the American people will never know the full truth of just what went on inside the Bush White House as decisions affecting all of our lives were made,” said Ms. Sloan. “Despite repeated warnings that information was being lost, Bush administration officials repeatedly and willfully turned a blind eye to the problem.”
Click here to read the full report “The Untold Story of the Bush White House Emails” (.pdf)
Read the report’s executive summary here (.pdf)
All of the documents produced by the White House in the lawsuits brought by CREW and the National Security Archive, except those marked “sensitive” by the White House and not subject to public disclosure, are available by clicking the links below
A timeline of the Bush White House email compiled by the National Security Archive is available by clicking here.