White House, Congress squabble over missing emails

A 2005 White House survey found that no email had been archived on 473 days for such offices as the Executive Office of the President and the Vice President's office, according to a summary of the report released by Rep. Harvey Waxman (D-CA).

A 2005 White House survey found that no email had been archived on 473 days for such offices as the Executive Office of the President and the Vice President's office, according to a summary of the report released by Rep. Harvey Waxman (D-CA). Waxman said he released the results of the study in response to Bush spokesman Tony Fratto's statement that there is "no evidence" there is any missing White House email, The Washington Post reports. Meanwhile the White House is claiming the White House study is flawed, with an official "contending that current White House employees have been unable to confirm the veracity of the analysis or to recreate its findings," according to the Post's report. The White House is required by law to preserve archives of all emails considered presidential or federal records. Waxman is looking for answers to this particular apparently illegal activity in the form of testimony next month from White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, National Archivist Allen Weinstein and Alan R. Swendiman, director of the Office of Administration.

The internal study found that for Bush's executive office, no e-mails were archived on 12 separate days between December 2003 and February 2004, Waxman said. Vice President Cheney's office showed no electronic messages on 16 occasions from September 2003 to May 2005. Archived e-mails were missing from even more days in other parts of the White House, the analysis found. The Council on Environmental Quality and the Council of Economic Advisers, for example, showed no stored e-mails for 2 1/2 months beginning in November 2003. The Office of Management and Budget showed no messages for 59 days -- including the period from Nov. 1, 2003, to Dec. 9, 2003 -- and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative showed no e-mail for 73 days.
Meanwhile two groups - Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive - are suing the government over the email situation. CREW's Anne Weisman said the group has sources who say the situation is every worse than the 2005 reports suggests.
Weismann said the source further described many more days during the same period when the volume of archived e-mail was unusually low. "The example I was given is that the average volumes per day in the White House office, for example, was 60,000 to 100,000, yet there were entire weeks when it was as low as five a day," she said.
White House officials said they have "so far been unable to replicate its results or to affirm the correctness of the assumptions underlying it."

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