White House ordered to preserve all e-mail (then and now)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge Monday ordered the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails, a move that Bush administration lawyers had argued strongly against.

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A judge ordered the White House to keep copies of all e-mails.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy directed the Executive Office of the President to safeguard the material in response to two lawsuits that seek to determine whether the White House has destroyed e-mails in violation of federal law.

In response, the White House said it has been taking steps to preserve copies of all e-mails and will continue to do so. The administration is seeking dismissal of the lawsuits brought by two private groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive.

The organizations allege the disappearance of 5 million White House e-mails. The court order issued by Kennedy, an appointee of President Clinton, is directed at maintaining backup tapes which contain copies of White House e-mails.

The Federal Records Act details strict standards prohibiting the destruction of government documents including electronic messages, unless first approved by the archivist of the United States.

Justice Department lawyers had urged the courts to accept a proposed White House declaration promising to preserve all backup tapes.

“The judge decided that wasn’t enough,” said Anne Weismann, an attorney for CREW, which has gone to court over secrecy issues involving the Bush administration and has pursued ethical issues involving Republicans on Capitol Hill.

For more on this story see CNN.com.  For a copy of the court’s order, click here.

In fairness, as numerous earlier posts on The Datakos Blawg illustrate, the problem of litigation holds and electronically stored information is not unique to the W. Bush Administration.  This is news today, but just seven years or so ago the Clinton Administration fought similar battles.  See White House Denies Email Wrongs.    The themes are the same, but in 2000 we were operating in “thousands” of emails; today we are talking, literally, hundreds of millions.  Something has got to give!
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