Concerned over contradictory White House statements about the government's controversial e-mail archiving efforts, a U.S. district judge April 24 ordered the Bush administration to collect and preserve all e-mails in .pst files for individuals employed at the White House between March 2003 and October 2005. Millions of White House e-mail are missing from the period.
The White House admits e-mails are missing but insists the e-mails are on back-up tapes and drives that as yet haven't been located. Federal law requires the preservation of all White House e-mail. The period of time covered by the order includes the start of the Iraq war, the Valerie Plame affair and the White House response to Hurricane Katrina.
Judge John Facciola also recommended that the preservation order be extended to data copied onto flash drives and other portable media for purposes other than preservation. Facciola ordered the White House to advise the court as to whether all backup tapes created between 2003-2005 have been preserved and to specify any dates for which no backups exist.
In his order, Facciola pointed to apparent contradictions in White House statements about the missing e-mails. Theresa Payton, chief information officer at the EOP (Executive Office of the President), has stated that the White House regularly overwrote backup tapes prior to October 2003, but the Office of Administration insists Peyton's remarks are "simply incorrect."
"The Court must admit that it is still unclear which backup tapes are being preserved and stored by EOP," Facciola wrote in his order. "To resolve any ambiguities once and for all, EOP is ordered to inform the Court on or before May 5, 2008, whether all backup tapes created between March 2003 and October 2003 have been preserved."