More White House E-Mail Not Archived
October 31, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) Government lawyers say a larger volume of White House e-mail messages than previously known may have escaped review in various investigations of the Clinton administration. Justice Department lawyers alerted a federal judge, four congressional committees and five sets of criminal investigators to the latest problem in the e-mail controversy that began early this year, according to court papers.
In a two-page letter to Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., White House counsel Beth Nolan revealed that some message traffic from several computer systems was not stored in electronic archives.
The new problem means that the White House's electronic document searches in response to subpoenas ranging from the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the campaign fund-raising controversy were even more faulty than thought earlier.
Before this week, the White House had told Congress and criminal investigators the archiving problem was limited to incoming e-mail from outside the White House and messages in a separate system in the vice president's office - a volume of e-mail that apparently runs into hundreds of thousands of messages.
In federal court Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth expressed frustration with the White House, saying the new disclosure is "contrary to weeks of testimony in my court.
"I've heard witness after witness tell me that the only thing we missed was external e-mail, and now ... you're telling me for the first time all of that testimony was wrong," Lamberth told Justice Department lawyers who are defending the White House in a lawsuit. The case filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch involves the Clinton White House's gathering of hundreds of FBI background files of employees from the Reagan and Bush administrations.
Much of the missing White House e-mail is being slowly reconstructed from backup computer tapes to see if some of it must be turned over to investigators
Involved in the latest archiving problem is a system in the White House family residence that is used by ushers and for various facilities such as the kitchen. Other systems involved are in the U.S. Trade Representative's Office and various units that report through the White House military office, such as the White House Communications Agency. Also involved is a correspondence database known as Quorum that contains an e-mail function.
White House officials said that as far as they know neither the president nor vice president had an e-mail account on the systems involved, nor did the first lady.
"This latest development reinforces my concern that the White House has never been honest when it comes to fulfilling legal responsibility to manage records and produce documents to Congress," said Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.
White House spokesman Elliot Diringer said "the volume of affected e-mail is modest compared to the volume archived and already searched through our centralized archive system."
"We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that all the affected e-mail has been adequately searched and we will forward any relevant messages to the investigative bodies as soon as they are available," said Diringer.
Pete Yost, Associated Press Writer