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White House Probably Violated Federal Records Act in Lost E-Mails

The Washington Post reported today that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is investigating a 473 day gap in White House e-mail storage.

The White House response suggest that they just don’t have a good system in place to preserve e-mail

This should be of great concern considering the fact that the courts ruled 13 years ago that an electronic copy of e-mail needs to be preserved. The precedent here comes from ARMSTRONG v. EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT , 1 F.3d 1274 (D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals 1993, which originally dated back to 1988 when Reagan was leaving office. Journalist Scott Armstrong and the National Security Archive sued to ensure that the actual electronic versions of federal records were being stored and not just paper print outs. The courts found that a lot of information was lost in the print out and that the President and the National Archive and Records Administration had an obligation under the Federal Records Act to store the electronic copies of e-mail records.

The massive gap in the Bush Administration’s record keeping seems to directly violate this finding.