White House: Destroying Evidence Is Industry Best Practice

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The White House has acknowledged "recycling" its backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, raising the possibility that many electronic messages including those pertaining to the CIA leak case have been taped over and are gone forever.

The disclosure came minutes before midnight Tuesday under a court-ordered deadline that forced the White House to reveal information it has previously refused to provide.

Before October 2003, the White House recycled its backup tapes "consistent with industry best practices," according to a sworn statement by a White House aide.

Among the e-mails that could be lost are messages swapped by any White House officials involved in discussions about leaking a CIA officer's identity to reporters.

Backup tapes are the last line of defense for saving electronic records.

Separately, the statement reveals the extent to which the White House is apparently unable to answer how many e-mails are missing from White House servers.

The White House "does not know if any e-mails were not properly preserved in the archiving process," said the statement by Theresa Payton, chief information officer for the White House Office of Administration. "We are continuing our efforts," said Payton, whose staff is responsible for the White House e-mail system.

If the e-mails were not saved, the White House might have violated two laws requiring preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal records or presidential records.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that "there is no basis to say that the White House has destroyed any evidence or engaged in any misconduct."

Fratto said that despite the recycling, some tapes should contain e-mails from before October 2003.

"Of course the disaster recovery backup tapes were, at one time, recycled," said Fratto. "However, since October 2003, the Office of Administration has retained and preserved its disaster recovery tapes. The disaster recovery system is set up to regularly back up everything on the network for the Executive Office of the president at the time of each backup."

The seven-page document filed in U.S. District Court says the White House in October 2003 "began preserving and storing all backup tapes and continues to do so." Payton said this means that e-mails sent or received in the 2003-2005 time period should be contained on existing backup tapes.

The period of 2003 and 2005 is the time frame at issue in lawsuits seeking information about possibly millions of missing e-mails at the Bush White House.

Payton's sworn statement was filed in response to a federal court order last week in lawsuits by two private groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive.


Posted by thingy on 2008-01-16 18:41:51
The "industry best practise" only applies to tapes that are no longer required. You can recycle monthly tapes, but keep 6-monthly and yearly tapes forever so no overall data is lost.


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