There was quite a hullabaloo a year ago when the White House disclosed that from the beginning of the Bush Administration until October 2003, it had been tossing out official e-mails like so much spam.
The story came to light as Rep. Harry Waxman D-Calif., who was then head of the House Oversight Committee, was holding hearings into a statement from then White House spokesman Tony Fratto that no e-mails were missing.
Fratto's comment was a shift from a previous declaration from the administration in 2007 that it was uncertain if any e-mails were missing. It was also a shift from what was said three years ago, when Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald reported that "we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." Fitzgerald made the comments as the White House scrambled to explain how the identity of CIA agent Valierie Plame had been leaked.
Now, in the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the missing e-mails, the White House has changed its position again – saying that it has "made great progress accounting for e-mails."
The Associated Press reports the administration was hit with a
last-minute court order to preserve electronic messages on Wednesday. The preservation order comes amid fears by two private groups that the White House has failed to take the necessary steps to deal with the problem of millions of apparently missing e-mails.
"We are now reviewing the court's order and will comply with the law," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott Stanzel. "The Bush Administration is in the process of sending 300 million emails to the National Archives as well as 25,000 boxes of records and the transfer has already begun. We have also made great progress accounting for emails on the White House system but because of ongoing litigation I will decline to comment on this."
A lawyer for one of the groups that sued the Executive Office of
the President over its e-mail problems criticized the White House
for refusing to provide details of what it is doing to recover any
"Instead of coming clean and telling the public what they have
been doing to solve the crisis, they refused to say anything,"
said Washington attorney Sheila Shadmand, who is representing a
private group, the National Security Archive, which sued the Bush administration over the e-mail issue a year and a half ago.
The National Security Archive has a timeline on its Web site, detailing the White House hijinks surrounding electronic record keeping. See it here.