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Waxman Seeks Identity Of Bush E-mail VAR
In a letter sent Thursday to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) requested that the White House provide the committee by Sept. 10 with an internal White House report on the e-mail system it said it conducted following the discovery of the missing e-mails, as well as the identity of the contractor responsible for daily audits and archiving.
The offices of the president and vice president are required to preserve all official communications, including e-mail, by the Presidential Records Act, a Watergate-era law that establishes that such communications are the property of the American people and cannot be destroyed.
Referring to White House Office of Administration (OA) Deputy General Counsel Keith Roberts, who briefed Waxman's committee on the missing e-mails on May 29, Waxman wrote: "In addition, Mr. Roberts informed the Committee that an unidentified company working for the Information Assurance Directorate of the Office of the Chief Information Officer was responsible for daily audits of the e-mail system and the e-mail archiving process. Mr. Roberts was not able to explain why the daily audits conducted by this contractor failed to detect the problems in the archive system when they first began."
Waxman's letter states that committee staff has "repeatedly requested" the internal report and the name of the contractor in the months since the May briefing "without success."
Private government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has also asked for information about the missing e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), with similar results.
"The Office of Administration has been completely uncooperative with us, and non-responsive to our FOIA request. Obviously we think there's something going on and they don't want us to see these records," said a source at CREW who asked not to be named.
The Bush administration has not stated specific details about the missing e-mails, but CREW has told media outlets that it has learned that internal White House documents estimate that at least five million e-mails went missing from March 2003 to October 2005.
The Office of Administration has long been listed as one of six executive branch entities that must answer FOIA requests, but last week the Bush administration filed court papers arguing that the OA is not subject to the open-records law.
At press time, the Office of Administration page on the White House Web site still had a section describing how to go about filing a FOIA request with the OA's Freedom of Information Act Office, described as being "responsible for responding to requesters who are seeking OA records under the FOIA."
Calls to the White House requesting more information on the missing e-mails and the unidentified IT contractor had not been returned at press time.