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Federal judge orders White House to preserve e-mails

[JURIST] The White House must preserve all of its e-mail records by saving back-up disks, United States District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [PDF text; press release] Monday. The order was a blow to the Bush administration, which has been fighting lawsuits brought by private advocacy groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archives [advocacy websites] against the Executive Office of the President [official website]. CREW requested the temporary restraining order [press release; JURIST report] last month. Kennedy ordered the White House to

preserve media, no matter how described, presently in [its] possess or under [its] custody or control, that were created with the intention of preserving data in the event of its inadvertent destruction. Defendants shall preserve the media under conditions that will permit their eventual use, if necessary, and shall not transfer said media out of their custody or control without leave of this court.
The lawsuit arose from millions of e-mails that have been deleted from White House servers and now only exist on back-up tapes, if they exist at all.

Thus far, the White House has refused to confirm that they have maintained e-mail records since the beginning of the Bush administration, as they are required to do, according to CREW executive director Melanie Sloan [CREW profile]. The US Department of Justice has been unresponsive about what back-up tapes the White House possesses, although it has said that the White House has maintained all back-up tapes since CREW filed suit. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation [JURIST news archive], and again this year during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.

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