Are White House computers a crime scene?

Author says Obama should treat Bush computers as active evidence.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Corrections: Spelling of Gewirtz's name corrected. Clarification on publication of book.

You know something's a little off when someone publicly takes credit for Secret Service policy. In an open letter to President-elect Obama, David Gewirtz, author of Where Have All the Emails Gone?, claims that he's "the guy whose writings got your BlackBerry taken away." Coupled with the fact that the first two words of the article are the author's own name, there's serious self-promotion/aggrandizement going on here. (But what the hell; it works: see CNN covereage here and here.)

Regardless, when you get past that, Gewirtz has an interesting take: The Bush White House engaged in criminal activity in failing to preserve official emails and the computers should be as evidence.

When you walk through those imposing doors for the first time, the building is likely to be filled with the droppings and detritus of the previous administration, including old computers. Obviously, most of those computers are likely to have been carted away by exiting Bushies (just like President George H.W. Bush's team did on January 19th, 1993), but there might be some still sitting around, and those could contain important information.

Whether those computers are on the desks your team is about to inhabit, in closets, stacked in some basement somewhere, or even out by the dumpsters, these computers are evidence in a federal crime.

Any of the computers - and this also includes computer parts, like hard drives, as well as various other media, like flash and thumb drives - any of these computers could contain traces of those missing messages.

I agree the computers should be preserved, not merely for proof of mishandling of emails but for proof of other high crimes and misdemeanors. But does the duty fall to the White House staff or to the National Archives to preserve, respectful of the time limits necessary for presidential confidentiality, relevant content, communications trails, etc?

But a letter to the head of the National Archives wouldn't be as sexy as one to Mr. Obama, would it?

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