The White House has apparently found 14 million "missing" e-mails that were the subject of several lawsuits and congressional inquiries, a Justice Department attorney told a federal judge late Wednesday.
Helen Hong, an attorney in the Justice Department's civil division, said the White House spent $10 million to locate the e-mails. She said the e-mails would be transferred to National Archives, along with tens of millions of other documents in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, immediately after President George W. Bush leaves office next Tuesday.
Hong's disclosure was made hours after U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy granted an emergency order to an historical group that directed Bush administration officials to immediately search all White House workstations "and to collect and preserve all e-mails sent or received between March 2003 and October 2005.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and George Washington University’s National Security Archive sued the Bush administration last year alleging the White House violated the Presidential Records Act by not archiving e-mails from 2003 to 2005. Hong claimed that independent contractors found the missing e-mails by looking through 60,000 backup tapes.
Last summer, CREW disclosed that in a court filing last August that the administration hired an outside contractor to search individual computers for tens of thousands of missing e-mails that disappeared between 2003 and 2005.
But according to the group's court filing, information technology experts conducting the search apparently have been told not to try and locate hundreds of thousands of missing e-mails from March 2003 to September 2003, a crucial timeframe that encompasses the start of the Iraq war, and the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.
“CREW has learned that the White House has now completed its analysis of the missing email problem and confirmed that email is missing for as many as 225 days,” according to CREW’s August 2008 statement on the matter. “In addition, the White House is about to begin selecting, or has already selected, a contractor to restore the missing email, although it is CREW's understanding that the White House does not intend to use backup tapes predating October 2003.
“It has already been established that e-mails for the Office of the Vice President are missing for a critical week in September 2003, when the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's convert CIA identity. Despite the obvious relevance of these new facts to the lawsuit, the White House has refused CREW's request that is advise the Court of these events and bring transparency to the process.
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