Another round in the saga of the vanished . . . reappeared . . . no–vanished White House emails. As last noted, U.S. magistrate John Facciola has now twice given the White House short deadlines to produce the missing emails or explain why they could not be produced.
On Friday afternoon, the White House stated that it had destroyed old email hard-disk drives, and that the traffic on them couldn’t be recovered. It provided evasive responses on a number of other queries, including whether emails were lost or could be retrieved. This marks a continuation of White House evasions that now stretch over almost a year. Here is Pete Yost’s account for the Associated Press:
Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005. The White House revealed new information about how it handles its computers in an effort to persuade a federal magistrate it would be fruitless to undertake an e-mail recovery plan that the court proposed.
“When workstations are at the end of their lifecycle and retired … the hard drives are generally sent offsite to another government entity for physical destruction,” the White House said in a sworn declaration filed with U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola. It has been the goal of a White House Office of Administration “refresh program” to replace one-third of its workstations every year in the Executive Office of the President, according to the declaration.
Some, but not necessarily all, of the data on old hard drives is moved to new computer hard drives, the declaration added. In proposing an e-mail recovery plan Tuesday, Facciola expressed concern that a large volume of electronic messages may be missing from White House computer servers, as two private groups that are suing the White House allege.
Facciola proposed the drastic approach of going to individual workstations of White House computer users after the White House disclosed in January that it recycled its computer backup tapes before October 2003. Recycling — taping over existing data — raises the possibility that any missing e-mails may not be recoverable.
What’s at the bottom of this controversy? Karl Rove and his email traffic from the beginning of the Bush presidency, much of which seems mysteriously to have disappeared. The Rove traffic had been subpoenaed by Patrick Fitzgerald, and when Congress sought the materials in connection with their investigation of the U.S. attorneys scandal, they began to receive a series of inconsistent explanations as to why the emails could not be produced.
Of course it’s possible that the White House has a computer archiving system which would get an MIS director fired in a Fortune 500 company. But more likely, we’re witnessing some creative excuses being offered up for the destruction of the emails of Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and a half dozen further figures at the heart of the U.S. attorneys scandal.
Note how this matter achieves no media attention. It’s understandable how, with so many stingrays assaulting pleasure-boaters there is just no space for it.