Thursday, April 12, 2007

Video: Leahy on the "lost" WH e-mails

Bonus: TPMmuckraker has a portion of a letter sent by the tireless Henry Waxman of the House Oversight committee to the so-called justice department in which he states:

According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a "document retention" policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Mr. Kelner said that as a result of unspecified legal inquiries, a "hold" was placed on this e-mail destruction policy for the accounts of White House officials in August 2004.
According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove's account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.

Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove's emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove's ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns. It was unclear from Mr. Kelner's briefing whether the special archiving policy for Mr. Rove was consistently in effect after 2005.

Dan Froomkin has more:

In an afternoon conference call with reporters, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel spread the blame all around. "White House policy did not give clear enough guidance," he said. "The oversight of that wasn't aggressive enough." And individual White House staffers "did not do a good enough job of following existing preservation policy -- or seeking guidance."

Said Stanzel: "I guess the bottom line is that our policy at the White House was not clear enough for employees."

But when I asked Stanzel to read out loud the White House e-mail policy, it seemed clear enough to me: "Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff," says the handbook that all staffers are given and expected to read and comply with.

"As a result, personnel working on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication."

The handbook further explains: "The official EOP e-mail system is designed to automatically comply with records management requirements."

Well, that sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

It's obvious the WH is drowning over this one:

Stanzel refused to publicly release the relevant portions of the White House staff manual and denied my request to make public the transcript of the call, which lasted more than an hour but which -- due to Stanzel's refusal or inability to provide straight answers on many issues -- raised more questions than it answered...

Maybe freedom from the Bush administration's lies really is on the march. Keep pushing, Waxman.

Oh, and here's another bonus:

So is anyone in trouble? Apparently not. Stanzel was careful to apportion blame widely and generically. "This issue is not the fault of one individual," he said. He refused even to acknowledge that it is the White House counsel's office that is responsible for the establishment and oversight of internal rules of conduct. The White House counsel during Bush's entire first term, of course, was Alberto Gonzales, now the embattled attorney general.

Can you feel that proverbial noose tightening around your neck there, Al? Starting to feel a bit tortured? That's nothing compared to what you've counseled this administration to do to "detainees" and so-called "terrorism suspects". Karma's a bitch, isn't it?

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