Yesterday, the Washington Post reported the claim by a Justice Department lawyer that the White House had, at the eleventh hour, found the famous “missing emails” which for four years it’s been claiming that the dog ate — I mean, that it lost when switching to a new email system after President Bush’s re-election.
But it sounds like the Post was overly sanguine about the situation. In reality, the government’s claim on behalf of the White House may not be worth much at all.
“It’s definitely questionable that they’re doing something to solve the problem,” Meredith Fuchs, a lawyer for the National Security Archive, one of the groups suing to require the White House to recover the emails, told TPMmuckraker.
The emails at issue are from periods that will be crucial in assessing the Bush legacy, including the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and Pat Fitzgerald’s probe of the Valerie plame leak. We’ll know more about just how much has been preserved by next Tuesday or Wednesday, when the records will be transferred to the National Archives.
But it doesn’t sound like we’ll get everything. The new email system that the White House switched to four years ago allowed all staff members to access storage files and delete messages — unlike the previous system, which was designed to preserve all messages containing official business. Fuchs said that the White House has still declined to make a forensic copy of the records, so any emails that were deleted likely won’t be recovered. And since we’re talking about millions of emails, it may be impossible to know what we don’t have.
“They wait until the last moment and then they try to slam the door,” Fuchs added.
Earlier this year, CREW, which is also bringing the suit, asked the FBI to probe whether the deletions of the emails had deliberate, and criminally. But there’s no evidence the bureau followed up.
A fittingly disturbing coda to eight years of secrecy and obfuscation.