Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Nixon's Ghost Stalks the White House...
White House Tape Recycling May Have Erased Controversial E-Mails
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; 2:17 PM
The White House has acknowledged in a new court filing that it routinely recycled computer backup tapes containing its e-mail records until October 2003, a practice that could mean that many electronic messages from the first two years of the Bush administration are lost forever.
The disclosure raises the possibility that the White House effectively erased e-mail related to some of the biggest controversies of the Bush administration, including the leak of a CIA officer's name, the start of the Iraq war and the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes.
The White House's electronic record-keeping system has come under increasing scrutiny from Democrats in Congress and is the subject of a lawsuit by two advocacy groups. The administration previously has acknowledged problems with its archiving systems, but had not disclosed its practice of overwriting backup tapes.
The backups are meant to preserve records in case of a disaster. They also serve a role in ensuring that federal record-keeping laws are met, according to administration officials and records management experts. Two separate statutes require the White House to preserve federal or presidential records.
The prospects for recovering data that has been overwritten is uncertain, especially if the tapes were re-recorded numerous times, technology experts say.
In a court affidavit filed shortly before midnight yesterday, the official in charge of overseeing White House computer systems said that recycling, or overwriting, the backup tapes was "consistent with industry best practices related to tape media management."