The Bush Administration repeatedly denied that there were missing emails and later insisted that any emails that were missing could not be found. Now, 22 million missing White House e-mails have been found, according to two public interest groups who reached a settlement over the records. I discussed the issue on this segment of MSNBC Countdown.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive deserve considerable credit and accolades for their struggle to uncover the emails. From the outset, the Bush Administration was hostile to efforts to gain transparency and to preserve records. This led to the lawsuit in 2007.
The litigation revealed that the Bush Administration knew about a problem in the computer system that resulted in the loss of millions of records and did nothing to address it. The NSA sued to try to recover 5 million e-mails in 2007 and CREW filed in 2008.
The Bush Administration appeared content to continue to use the broken system which effectively destroyed records that it was required to preserve. Under this agreement —settlement_signed — the government will construct 33 missing days of e-mails.
Here is what the White House said on January 17, 2008 — White House spokesperson Tony Fratto stated:
FRATTO: I think our review of this — and you saw the court filing on this and our declaration and response to the judge’s questions. I think, to the best of what all the analysis we’ve been able to do, we have absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing.
There’s no evidence of that. There’s no — we tried to reconstruct some of the work that went into a chart that was entered into court records, and could not replicate that, or could not authenticate the correctness of the data in that chart.
And from everything that we can tell, our analysis of our back-up systems, we just — we have no reason to believe that any e-mail, at all, are missing.
Just 22 million e-mails.
The Bush Administration and Justice Department, however, will have achieved its goal of delaying any review of the emails since they will now go to the National Archives and Records Administration for the glacial process of reviewing and documenting the emails. The public will not view the material until 2014 so not only did the Bush Administration avoid direct consequences for the emails but it succeeded in burying the emails for a decade.
The question is the lack of investigation into prior false statements in the case and that fact that two experts were able to find 22 million e-mails that the United States government could not locate for years.