NPR logo Obama To Produce Millions Of Missing Bush E-Mails To Settle Lawsuit

Obama To Produce Millions Of Missing Bush E-Mails To Settle Lawsuit

The Obama Administration will produce millions of Bush White House e-mails the predecessor Republican administration had said were missing and unrecoverable to settle a lawsuit by two open-government groups.

Under the agreement, the administration will restore 94 days of missing e-mails which will then be sent to the National Archives and Records Administration and vetted for release under federal laws that govern how presidential records are released, according to the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) which, along with the National Security Archive at George Washington University, sued the government in pursuit of the e-mails.

The Obama Administration has also agreed that it would publicly release a description of the system it now uses to preserve White House e-mails.

An excerpt from a CREW press release:

To date, the Obama White House has produced thousands of pages of documents relating to these issues, all of which CREW has posted on Finally, the EOP will be providing a publicly releasable description of the system it now uses to manage and preserve electronic records, including its email archiving and backup systems. CREW and the NSA will then dismiss their lawsuits.

Documents produced so far show the Bush White House was lying when officials claimed no emails were ever missing. The record now proves incontrovertibly that Bush administration officials deliberately ignored the problem and, in fact, knowingly allowed it to worsen. Some questions remain unanswered. Why, after the Office of Administration told then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers about the problem and presented her with a plan to restore the emails, did she do nothing? Why did the White House abandon — at the last minute — a system it had developed to manage and preserve electronic records, despite having spent millions to create it? Did the Bush White House properly respond to requests for records from the Department of Justice and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald during the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert CIA identity?

Melanie Sloan, CREW's Executive Director, said, "We may never know exactly what happened to all the missing emails, and which Bush administration officials were involved in the coverup, but we do know the American public never got the full story." After the Obama administration produces all the promised records, CREW will release a report, providing as much detail as possible. Sloan continued, "The Obama administration, which inherited the lawsuits and the dysfunctional White House email system, has done a terrific job straightening out the mess. Thanks to the Obama White House, a critical part of our nation's missing history will be restored. This is yet another example of the administration living up to its promise of accountability and transparency."

And here's part of a statement from the National Security Archive, not to be confused with the National Security Agency:

"We have done our best in this case to maximize the number of e-mails that have been found or reconstructed from disaster recovery backup tapes," explained Kristen Lejnieks, counsel for the Archive. "The government can now can find and search over 22 million more e-mails than they could in late 2005. They also will restore 94 calendar days from backup tapes. We certainly hope that many major gaps in the record have been filled."

"The absence of best business practices permitted a loss of data that was completely preventable," explained Al Lakhani, an expert, and Managing Partner with Alvarez & Marsal. "Today's technology permits reliable archiving and effective control over deletion of records."

Commenting on the state of the current White House e-mail system, Ms. Fuchs stated: "We have been briefed on the system in use since the beginning of the Obama Administration and we believe that the system now in use fixes the significant problems with the prior system, including by capturing everything, properly categorizing the e-mails, and preventing unauthorized deletion."