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White House Office Wins Appeal To Keep E-Mail Memos Private

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A White House office will not have to publicly release its records relating to the disappearance of millions of e-mails from the Bush administration, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in a 3-0 decision, upheld a ruling from a federal judge last year that the White House's Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

In an attempt to learn how millions of White House e-mails were lost between 2001 and 2005, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit in 2007 to try to compel the Office of Administration to comply with a FOIA request for documents relating to the e-mails.

The Office of Administration, which performs a variety of services for the Executive Office of the President, previously complied with FOIA requests but reversed course in 2007. Officials at the time said the office was not subject to the law, and the appeals court today agreed.

"Because nothing in the record indicates that [the Office of Administration] performs or is authorized to perform tasks other than operational and administrative support for the President and his staff, we conclude that OA lacks substantial independent authority and is therefore not an agency under FOIA," Judge Thomas Griffith's written opinion said.

CREW and other groups last week sent a letter to the Obama White House, asking it to once again accept FOIA requests for the Office of Administration.